Dirty Secret


bella_icon.gif deckard_icon.gif joseph_icon.gif

Scene Title Dirty Secret
Synopsis Deckard introduces Joseph to his new roommate. They all sit down and watch Meercat Manor together.
Date August 16, 2010

Chelsea: Deckard and Bella's Apartment

"You probably shouldn't tell anyone I live here," is an odd thing to remember to tell someone quietly at the last minute while working old keys clackity-jangle into a lock that looks new. Contextually, though — considering the source and the half-heartedly measuring look Flint casts sideways back at Joseph and the graffiti yawned wide across the brickwork at street level some four stories below — it's not that unusual. Somehow.

A couple of seconds later, field jacket rumpled on his shoulders, wiry hair buzzed too short to do anything but bristle, Flint hesitates and looks back again, clear blue eyes searching for something. Like. A reason not to open the door.

He already has it cracked, though — baring out a thin line of empty air dimmer than the clean-lit hallway they're standing alone in under the number 9. The other doors all seem quiet. But the only thing there is Joseph, and either he's not a big enough reason in himself or there's nothing written in his dumb teddybear face to suggest that he shouldn't scuff a hand up over the back of his head and shoulder on into the foyer. Because that is what he does. "You're still a Christian, right?"

Joseph's patience over hesitation is probably less a virtue of his and more obliviousness, gaze wandering up a wall as maybe Flint has troubles with the locks or something, his hands tucked into the pockets of a light denim jacket, light with age, as vague as the shirt beneath that, the jeans and boots, washed out breed of pragmatic plainness. There is, maybe not notably, the slight outline of double crucifixes beneath his shirt, strung from a silver chain that just barely glimmers like fishing wire at his neck.

Drags attention back to Deckard, black eyes dart from partially opened door and then back to his friend's long face, eyebrows furrowing at this question. He's not really thinking about no take backs or fairweather religion as he automatically responds; "Uh, yup. Still get that newsletter. And course I won't tell." Or ask why it's a secret.

Oh, this is so thoroughly uncool. Bella is entirely unprepared for company. The apartment is a mess, she hasn't cleaned the most recent dishes for the dinner she made for herself and offered to Flint in a way that was probably not passive aggressive, at least not to begin with, though the leftovers may be left over for some time, resting ominously in their tupperware on the top shelf, just waiting to be eaten and appreciated for their home cooked goodness dammit.

She's also not dressed for guests, having cracked into her stockpile of scrubby clothing in true celebration of her workplace being, like, raided or whatever the hell is going on she doesn't know thank a God at least someone under this roof currently believes in. A big t-shirt that advertises 'Mylexin - What You've Been Waiting For' in curvy, soothing, promising font and a pair of work out slacks that have not been used for a workout in quite some self-pitying time make up the worthwhile mention of Dr. Sheridan (M.D.!!!)'s ensemble, and while she's actually not chemically altered at this particular juncture, she's still on the living room couch, supine, watching a muted rerun of Meerkat Manor and looking pretty thoroughly spaced out.

And then Subject J-1's voice strikes her ears, and no extent of adorable mammal hijinks are about to make Bella feel an ounce more comfortable. There is an immediate thought to the effect of maybe running pellmell for her room, a flash of red hair and oversized shirt, but the thought of being labelled as some sort of disrespected hussy of Flint's (her thought, unworthy maybe but maybe not so much), keeps her from beating a retreat. Instead, cowardice suggests she compromise by just staying put. Maybe they won't need the couch. Maybe there will be no call for them to investigate as to is potential occupancy. You never know. Maybe Joseph just needs to use the bathroom. It's to the left, by the way. Hopefully the water is working properly today.

More keenly attuned to the potential for as sudden flutter and flag of ill-suppressed recoil to cut off than the average Tyrannosaurus rex with x-ray vision, Flint sizes up the angle and span of wall through which Bella stays put. He's warier than he is outright tense, keys slung a little carelessly down on a trio of stacked crates that rounds out his contribution to things that at least vaguely resemble furniture.

It's good news that Joseph is still a Christian, theoretically. Operating off of the (perhaps intentionally dim) assumption that the better ones want to hold true to certain set of core values. Flint nods at it anyway, too overtly distracted to look or feel overly reassured when he makes the conscious decision to press on for the living area, Subject J-1 in tow.


Subject J-1 follows in, a little quieter than Deckard in that he just sort of naturally is, in foot falls if not conversation, ever, prone more to run at the mouth as prone as the other man is to lengthy silences. Anyway: he enters, and doesn't seem to be making a beeline for the bathroom on any given instruction, just trailing along at a meander as he glances around the place. It's nice, you know, in comparison to other alternatives he's seen, and he's not playing spot the supervillainess today.

The TV is on, though, which seems kind of wasteful to be left on like that, even for meerkats. "Nice to see some electricity that don't come outta somethin' portable," he observes, with a half-smile, and those quiet footsteps head fooor the sofa, or around it. "Lemme get that for you."

Hey, look, Bella's villainy hardly qualifies as super. At best it's excessive. Super belongs to those tasteless people she hopes have been smeared across her workplace's walls and floor, the real creeps. At the end of the day, Bella just wants to go home and enjoy Animal Planet, which she would be doing right now if someone hadn't decided to awkwardly have guests over. This would be so much easier if she hadn't shown her face. That's what she gets for trying to be nice. Know what? Note to self: no more Ms. Nice Woman

Only last time she made that resolution, she got herself into this mess.

Also, note, the niceness is thanks to a certain feminine influence so don't go giving Deckard all the credit. Some due respect must be passed on to the IKEA catalogue, which helps decorate all the homes of the terminally single.

Bella knows how this goes. She's about to be found out and there was never really any escaping the fact. She should have gone into hiding with someone whose closest friends she hasn't either experimented on or been shot by if she wanted to escape a certain degree of awkwardness. She could, given her training, make a great deal out of her particular choice. But fuck that noise. Instead she does the best she can to salvage the situation, by turning on her back and lying in wait for Joseph with a dry expression on her face, like maybe he's the asshole for being here. Until he sees her, though, she won't say anything.

In the meantime she'll try and think of something really either really disarming or really cold blooded to say. Give her a moment, please.

It is nice. Probably on the higher end of Middle Class or the lower end of Upper before Midtown was vaporized and trace radiation bit deep into wood flooring and ceramic toilet and fine granite counter. Perpetually disinterested in what the television has to offer for the last decade (that does not directly entail some flavor of pornographic content) Flint watches Joseph move for the television in a vaguely removed kind of surreal silence. Like he isn't sure what to do with the empty space prior to conflict anymore. He wasn't expecting to have so much of it.

Not quite at a loss, he looks skeptically to Bella still on the couch out from under his brows before he turns to take a seat within arm's reach next to her, right hand already dipping unconsciously to fish for a box of smokes in his jacket. Meercats are mongooses. Why anyone would name a mongoose 'Flower' is beyond his scope of understanding of the world.

Joseph stops as if maybe he just discovered a snake had gotten in, coiled up on the sofa to watch delicious exotic cuisine frolic like a Disney movie on the screen. Or stops upon discovering Deckard's new girlfriend camped out there, and it's this latter one that he immediately assumes, starting in bashful apology and then blinking a few times because maybe— hell. It's been a rough few days, 'specially for the Ferry, too many died doing what they did to the Institute, wondering if there's blame placed on those who voted for it, wondering if it's a bad thing if there isn't any blame at all, and so naturally, his subconscious superimposes Bella Sheridan's face over the other attractive redhead rolled onto her back.

Just to fuck with him.

Of course, that's wishful thinking. Meanwhile, the Whiskers meerkat pups are trying to devour tortoise eggs, failing in sickeningly cute ways, the light of their adventures falling in flickers on an unlikely trio of people. Or, you know, too likely. Joseph is already thoroughly disarmed and kind of icy-veined without Bella having to say a word, and he casts a helpless glance towards Deckard.

Who is sitting down, instead of brandishing a 9 mil, or something a trifle more expected. "…'s goin' on?" he asks, as if his voice got half-trapped in his throat on its way out.

'Can I get you a drink'? No, wait, 'Can I get you anything?' No, still to vague. 'Let me get you something, what's your poison, oh wait I already know', no too long. Fuck, this is so much easier for real super villains. And real antiheroes. Neither of which Bella is. Just a sort of really bad person. Who is precisely whom Joseph thinks she is, too much to try and monopolize on his immediate perceptual doubt, even if she knew about it. Cold blooded/disarming comments being basically out the window, she decides to say something snarky to Deckard, because that is much, much easier for her.

"You should have said we were having company, Flint," Bella says, gazing back at Joseph with more of a 'fuck you' expression that she actually intends to wear, "I would have made myself presentable." Or, you know, hidden in a closet.

By the time the slate scrape of Flint's lighter has something to say, Joseph's finally straightened his eyes out enough to see the snake he nearly stepped on. You know.


The tip of his cigarette embers orange beneath undead eyes in the bands of lesser light between carnassials and leathery eggshell, deliberately, almost aggressively impassive. "She told me," he says at length, a long drag in and a shorter reach for a metal coaster that cleverly doubles as an ashtray in disguise into a pretty impressive silence, "she doesn't want to be a dirty secret. So."


"I decided to get it out of the way before we actually do anything dirty. You don't have to pretty yourself up for us, mon chou." The latter line and the eerily lambent look tilted along with it are both, one hopes, for Bella.

That doesn't actually answer his question!!, guys. Maybe by conventional standards, yes, it answers a question, maybe it was even the one Joseph said, but it clears up nothing. He's watching, more, the track and movement of lit cigarette, his mouth drawn into a grim line and his hands coming to clutch one another for want of anything else to fidget with, such as hidden crucifixes, or his long-missing wedding ring. He's wilting a little, a fraction, before their eyes, which might have gone undetected if both of them weren't reasonably astute observers?

"I don't understand," he says, flatly, firmly, in revolt of his sagging posture. "You know who she is," talking over Bella, now, the woman reduced to a smear in his periphery, a figment, "so what on earth is she doin' here? Get what outta the way?" And that's volume, in his voice, which Deckard's heard rarely, Bella more often, in the ratio of interactions.

"I helped get you out," Bella says, not bothering to put in anything like pathetic appeal in her voice, not because it wouldn't work (she judges that Joseph may be one of the few suckers on which it actually might work) but because it seems disrespectful, and for all that she may kidnap Flint's friends and subject them to chemical torments, she's not going to diss them in front of him. That would be rude. "That mayn't count for a great deal, but I do think it's worth something." And she does. A good faith effort to improve.

"I'm in hiding," Bella clarifies, because she doesn't entirely trust Flint to, "from the people that took you. I'm here because," okay, actually, she doesn't really want to say because no matter which way she spins it ('because I have nowhere else to go' or 'because I want to') either gives Deckard too little or too much credit, and she wants to give him just enough to suit her tastes. But maybe we can't always have it the way we like, "I have made a lot of mistakes and I'm trying to avoid making more." Which, like, rooming with Deckard apparently doesn't qualify, so maybe that's flattering?

For all that Flint's faced Joseph's disapproval before, he cannot immediately recall an instance where he was directly admonished by him. With raised volume and everything. Guilt bites subtle into the back of his neck, plucking tension into one hot wire at a time on its way to pulling the angle of his regard ever-so-slightly sideways and down.

It's not enough to stop him smoking, though. Or thinking, despite the fact that it's getting increasingly difficult to do so without irrationality clouding in all oily and grey to blot out whatever limited intelligence he feels he's capable of.

"We're all a little fucked in the head here, Father. She didn't get away clean." As if the fact that he shot her somehow mitigates all the bad that is happening somehow, Deckard mentions it as vaguely as is possible because — he is not feeling all that detail-oriented at the moment.

She does get attention, then, that first point, lacking though it is of simper or appeal. Joseph's dark eyes are a flat and unforgiving pair of kirby dots, all neutral energy and devoid of much light and optimism, flicking away from her with a stubborn, mildly compulsive shake of his head. New information replaces implied guesswork, about how he got from Institute facility to Brooklyn hospital, but doesn't make a lot of difference save for providing spiderwebs over clarity.

"Because you feel bad, or 'cause you don't want the consequences?" isn't meant to be answered, not by her because his voice already does in the slam-door nature of his tone, and the way his hands fly apart from each other in a gesture like dropping plates and not caring about the shatter. It's a trap, arguing with her, which is something Joseph learned, but it's preferable to Dealing With the guilty tilt of Deckard's head. And the—


nonchalant smoking.

All questions are meant to be answered. Perhaps that is not their speaker's intent, but Bella is far too used to cagey clients to imagine that what is openly intended means very much at all. It is the tip of the emotional iceberg, just an indicator of unseen depths. It is, in fact, the questions that seem to need no answer that must be pursued. Plus Bella would like to defend herself just a little, however tasteless that desire may be, and however appalling her acting that desire out may appear. Really, it would be hard to get more appalling so what's to be lost, really?

"Are they two ever mutually exclusive?" Bella replies, staying firmly in place on the couch, motioning (or motionlessing) to the fact that this is her sketchy apartment for which she sketchily pays rent in cash. "Isn't feeling bad itself a consequence?" Her arms fold over her chest, "Would you like me to ask for your forgiveness? I don't ask because I understand I'm undeserving, but if it would make you feel better to know I want it, know… I do. Want it."

What's that smell? Bella's nose twitches.

"Please, don't smoke in the house."

Maybe the pastor can bond with Bella over that. Is that a common enough cause?

Please don't smoke in the house.

Cigarette at a careless skew at the corner of his mouth, Flint tilts an evasively canine look from Joseph to Bella, then back again. Evidently he wasn't expecting her to pick up on it, or. Care. Under current circumstances.

There's a slow beat before he cups his combination coaster and ash tray in hand and obediently (if unhappily) snuffs his cigarette nose down into cold metal. Meanwhile one last smoky breath filters slow through his sinuses and he sighs, ashy mess and smothered butt set aside onto an IKEA endtable so that he can slouch more comfortably back into the couch. The tension in his knees slacks out into a wide angle with some effort, one bony cap nearly at Bella's once he's sunk down to take Joseph in again at a lazier angle.

He wants to stay mad. Really does. Resolve tends to blow away like dry leaves, though, Joseph slanting a look away in his own breed of canine avoidance in response to her reasonable tone. He is a Christian, and the topic of forgiveness gets blinks and zero words, for now, his hands back to being beside him and misery making tension around his eyes, pulling his mouth into a thin line. He watches Deckard reluctantly put out his cigarette on the woman's command, and his shoulders slacken all the more beneath faded denim.

"So why's he— " The sentence is cut off and cauterised, and if catching himself from doing something like speak to her again. "Why're you helpin' her?" Full of questions, tonight, trying to make a certain sense of the situation before he jumps to conclusions. Markedly unfair, seeing as he never called the cops on Deckard either, who might have scored more supervillainy points that the redhead stretched out on the sofa.

Yes. He is Christian. Which Bella knew and maybe kind of sort of that's why she went the forgiveness route. Not that it's untrue, but forgiveness is just a step towards her true goal. Evil science no longer being her career of choice, she goes back to masterminding the scheme she's spent the rest of her life hatching - getting people to like her. Pathetic, and even Bella, thinking herself a pragmatist, is unaware of the her own desires. Which is sort of sad, really.

Bella tugs her legs up to her chest and wraps her arms around them. One of those weird girlish things she does sometime, like the opposite of a toad puffing itself up to appear stronger. She doesn't say anything. The ball is currently in Deckard's court. And she actually does want to hear the answer.

Again, her reasons are pathological.

"It's complicated."

Bleached out under the spotlight, Deckard's coarse voice has all the dusty trimmings of deeper evasion than he's all that comfortable about acknowledging now that he no longer has his cigarette to hide behind. He's gone from looking indirectly at Joseph to not looking at him at all, unholy eyes focused shrill on the delicate taper of a mouse's skeleton curled still behind the far wall.

"She needs help," is a reason, at least, for all that it is lacking in purported complexity. "She talks to me."

A slight shake of his head muffles further thought before he can continue the devolution of thought beyond preschool reasoning. Flint scratches his nose — tries not to let frustration bristle into the scruff around his mouth at the fact that he's being asked at all and fails. This is about them.

"She's evil." Laughable concept, maybe, but spoken with wounded conviction all of a sudden, Joseph— failing to melodramatically brandish a gesture, or even get his voice back up to quasi-shout or simple projection. Delivered roughly all the same, bewilderement and ridiculous hurt scratching through his throat. "I thought you knew— you did know, you saw what it was like." After, anyway, and during the raid itself, and his hand finally flies up to seek out the tiny shape of pendants high up near his throat, beneath the cotton collar of T-shirt.

Nn. Abruptly ashamed of his stand-up performance of Man In Turmoil in response to what seems like a pretty selfless gesture to the slouched audience of two, Joseph drifts away, then, vaguely doorwards if lacking the momentum to have that trajectory carry all the way through, a hand up to card through, tug at dark hair at the back of his skull. Letting the colour that rose in his face to flush away.

"I'm not evil," Bella says, which is a hell of a thing to say. Down there with 'I know you are but what am I' on the rebuttal scale. "No more than anyone else. Just… read Milgrim… or the Stanford Prison experiment. You don't know what you're capable of until you do it. And I did, but I'm not going to anymore. I have decided to be happy."

And she looks reeeeal happy, glowering over her knees, giving the TV screen the stink eye. Her arms are wrapped tight around her legs. The picture of domestic bliss. Speaking to a man she will not turn to face.

Deckard's silence has clouded over into one of mute agreement, all cloying guilt and humidity wreathed thick through the creases in his haggard brain. Bella is human. So is he.

More or less.

Learned cowardice keeps him on the couch when Joseph starts to drift, tension bleaching chickenbone across the backs of his hands where his torso stays sloped deliberately back. He has nothing to say.

Joseph might not be well read enough to sympathise. Or maybe he is, and it has him scrubbing at his face like he's tired, fingers circling eyesockets, his back to them and shoulders curled inwards. "Well I wasn't askin' you," is what he comes up with, voice low in its bitterness, edged in a way that is an addition to his usual gentleness. Alternately, edged in a way that is what happens when gentleness is sandpapered off and gone, revealing razors, or at least broken pieces.

"S'pose I'm just glad it made you miserable." Apparently. He doesn't believe that she was, which can be deciphered from the way that Joseph doesn't sound very glad at all. He's moving then, now, when no one hooks him back from that drift away, more determined, resistant steps for the door, silently yanking it open to step out into the hallway.

He doesn't slam it. Just leaves it open.

"Go after him," Bella says, tipping her head back to gesture at the door without changing her posture one bit. She does not say 'you should go after him'. What he should do is, she's guessing what he won't do. So she hopes he's just willing to act on imperative, an object in a frictionless, airless space, unable to move without some (light) application of force.

The open swing of the door marks one of the few times Sheridan's seen Deckard look legitimately anxious: his eyes flicker uncertainly from wall to hall to television and his shoulders have gone hard under the fray of his jacket, quick on their way to molding doubt into something more productively volatile. Like the anger flexing into the hollows at his jaw. "No."

The way Bella looks at Deckard, you'd think she was the one with the irradiating gaze. "Do you really want to have just me?" she says, and the way she says it, it sounds rhetorical, "Do this, for the sake of my mental health, if not your own. Go. Now."

Damn it. Damn it. Damn it.

Five seconds of further resistance later, Flint flounces forth off the couch in a graceless furl of black canvas and denim. Teeth grit, brow furrowed, he crosses for the entryway, claws his keyring up into his pocket in a tangle and shoulders out, right side jouncing unecessarily against the frame.

Something like fifteen seconds all in all, which is enough time for someone to make some good time if they choose to. In truth, Joseph's flounce~ slows dramatically in speed as soon as he wings around the door, not quite a stumble, just taking a second to tensely stop, before resuming at a sane pace, arms coming to fold across midsection, because he can totally walk from Chelsea to. The Bronx. There are busses. And he's trying to judge how immature it would be to keep walking by the time he's hearing Deckard's clomping steps somewhere behind him.

Pretty immature!! And so Joseph picks up the pace a little more, jaw clenched tight enough for molars to ache.

Deckard's boots are not quiet, it's true. Joseph knows it and so does he, which means the former pastor's election to not turn around with Flint coming up hot on his heels is a conscious decision.

This makes it easier for his alcoholic, graverobbing, murdering, government-owned and operated bff to bodycheck him full force off the door of another unoccupied apartment. Physically and morally, somehow, like a desire for pain is implicit in keeping one's back turned to the hoofbeats of a charging bull.

Oof. Joseph collides with stubborner surface, and the way he doesn't flinch or brace himself suggests a new brand of nihilist uncaringness or he just— didn't expect that. Regardless, it has Joseph turning to confront Deckard, certainly, one hand gripping the ridge of doorframe and the other curled up into bony fist at his side, but he's not bringing it up to lift, rarely does, ever. He never struck out at Bella, either, and when Emile Danko invited him to do it, he walked away. It's actually—

— more of an act of will this time. But it pulls through. Maybe out of self-preservation.

Having in recent months become reaccustomed to the bar fight one-two you're-hit-by-me I'm-hit-by-you style of aggressive release, Flint is temporarily stymied when Joseph fails to meet him halfway, blow for blow. Like a wild-eyed terrier futilely trying to tie its own reflection up in snapping teeth only to have his nose glance off the glass, he rocks half a step back and tries to reasses his entry.

It's been a while since he hit someone who won't hit him back.

"Christian" being the disclaimer, again. Or more insulting things, and he's heard those too, maybe in more startling accuracy, sharp like a scalpel, from the mouth of the woman in the apartment room he just left. Joseph's back slouches against the door he was knocked into, but doesn't relax, hands still knotted and jaw still shut, the stare that Deckard gets nearly baleful. More reproachful, but a sullenly abashed kind of uncomfortable glance away. Waiting.

There are a lot of things Deckard could say. Back when Teo first went 'round with him in a graveyard two years ago he was less guarded about what came out. He simultaneously had more and less to lose. Rail thin, scruffier, saner and dirtier than he is now, all shorn and level and thick in the neck.

A long held-breath vents out through his nose like steam, blue coal fires still burning low behind his eyes when he withdraws back into inevitable retreat. Not back to his apartment, where Bella lies in wait, but past it. There's another stairwell around here somewhere.

Anger promptly kicks blood pressure up enough notches that it will take Joseph until later to understand why. Maybe because it was his turn to walk away from instead of be walked away from, or because there is a language with which the courage to start a fight translates into friendship, somehow, and never mind who started it and who then failed to follow through. Orrr because the temptation to follow is instantaneous and unfair, and he doesn't.

Because seriously, the best thing Joseph is coming up with right now is so are ya sleepin' with her?! and he can't bring himself to shout that across the hallway, at the still open door, where she'll hear, and wield it someday.

In contrast to shy footsteps, clomp clomp clomp goes Joseph's continuation for his own exit. Only when he's sure Deckard has cleared the corner.

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