bella_icon.gif deckard_icon.gif

Scene Title Diversions
Synopsis With The Institute breathing down their necks, Bella and Deckard distract themselves with shopping for fine art, carrying heavy pieces of fine art, having confrontations about not being cooperative enough with Bella's fine art hanging endeavors and also sex.
Date September 24, 2010

Bella and Deckard's Apartment

Three things Isabella Sheridan is shamed by right now, three things she'd rather not admit to herself, three things she knows better, wants better than to do, but… They are what they are.

Thing one - she's gone shopping. Not the kind, thankfully, that involves glossy bags, brimming over with colored tissue paper; no bath products, chocolates or other such accoutrements. To this length she will not, cannot, go. But she has gone shopping, drinking from that common consumerist cup, the panacea for modern discontent.

Thing two - while she hasn't delved into total feminized kitsch, what she shopped for, what she has bought, is for the house. This is not, she pledges, nesting. She considers it fortification. Recent intrusion, stirring thoughts of flight - never too far from Bella's mind - has produced a reaction to the contrary. And what better way to keep oneself in one place than to increase the value of that place, let sheer weight of economics, most irrational of rational sciences, keep her from running.

Thing three - really, the worst of all. Bella stands at the bus stop, three blocks down from her apartment building, having been helped with her things onto public transit by the store employees, and off by the (surprisingly helpful) bus driver. But now she's in something of a pickle. Leaning against a mailbox - one that looks like someone took a baseball bat to it - are three long, thin, broad cardboard boxes lashed together by plastic bands. Too large and too heavy for Bella to carry alone. She knows, because she tried. Several times. And now her hands hurt, as does the bridge of the foot and the bottom of her chin, for reasons having to do with a very silly, ambitious attempt not worth describing at this juncture. She's given in. She's got her phone out. She's calling Flint, who will hopefully be at home.

She needs his superior upper body strength to help out.

Bella left on the bus. Bella will eventually come back on the bus.

The idea was to spend the day outside under acceptable conditions. 'I was just waiting for you,' is a pretty good excuse, and there are enough ancient pieces of gum and scuff marks studded into cracked concrete that a few drops of blood drying brown hardly stand out in the mellow evening light. Anyone could have put those there. They could've been there for years. They could be paint, or. Some other kind of paint.

Anyway the point is that when she calls, she can hear the generic trill of Flint's phone, which is either an impressive feat of soundwave transference on the wind or — or he is passed out somewhere in the defunct drugstore a door or so down the block. Is/was.

Slouched on the floor amidst metal shelves long-since looted clean of everything but dust, he slits both eyes groggily open behind the bleak black of his glasses and reaches dimly for his phone.

It's still ringing when he tracks his way out through the missing door and onto the sidewalk, jacket and jeans and scruff. Faster than pizza delivery.

The sound of the phone against in her ear is matched, in cell-tower delay syncopation, by the sound of Flint's ringtone. The experience is, for a moment, uncanny. Bella looks around, confused, not sure she heard- and there it is again! Coming at exactly the same delay. Neither hallucination nor coincidence. And then… he's there.

Oh, this is so totally what Bella needed.

Actually… it sort of is.

The phone drops from Bella's cheek and she thumbs the 'end' button, halting the call and, in confirmation of her suspicion, Flint's phone shuts up. The look of skepticism on her face is obligatory and frankly sort of well worn. She only keeps it up long enough to quip: "Help me with these," a gesture to the boxes as reference, "and I won't ask."

Deckard bears no fresh battlescars. Bruising is still blotched in uneven patches of brown and yellow from the bristle of the sideburn Francois applied his elbow to and there's darker staining pressed in around his throat, but that's all old news. Fresh abrasions around his right hand and a split knuckle are not so unusual as to call attention. He is a Deckard. These things happen.

Still stiff after the position he fell asleep in, he looks first to the boxes and then to Bella, his lack of enthusiasm for the idea of dragging anything bigger than himself three blocks tangible in the slope of his shoulders and the downturn at the corners of his mouth.

"What are they?"

"Prints," Bella answers, "of paintings." More paintings? "When they raid our apartment, I don't want them to find just another barren rat hole where a fugitive and his unhinged former therapist were crouching. I'd like them to find a rather well appointed rat hole. And I'd like them to at least know the unhinged therapist had some taste.

"I got them framed and put behind glass, so they're heavy and bulky." A winning combination. Bella steps over to the side of the abused mailbox, hand alighting upon one end of the combined boxes. "We could cut the bindings, take them one at a time, but I'm hesitant to leave them just… out here."

"They won't be here when we get back," is more confirmation that sheer statement of the obvious, considering. Meanwhile prints of paintings don't really work the same way as actual paintings; x-rays have only so much information to give in the way of secret messages and sneak previews. Excepting, of course, an idea of the approximate weight of each, which is enough to make Flint work his jaw in distaste. For a scientist Bella is at times abrasively blind to cause and effect. But he doesn't say anything. Just kind of looks at her from behind his sunglasses.

But seriously. He doesn't say anything.

Not even on his way over to nudge at the near end to test the weight of a lean against an open hand and to look sideways at her ass as if speculating as to its weight-bearing capacity. "We can carry them like a table," does not sound remotely like, 'Sometimes you are a ridiculous person.' "Take that end."

That Bella is a little bossy is something Flint well knows by now. That she alternately tries to hide the fact and, realizing how ineffectively hiding it is, ironically plays it up, is also something he probably can't help but have noticed. In light of this, he can maybe, just maybe, recognize that she's making the effort to follow his instructions without insubordination. She maybe, just maybe, can recognize that the occasional ogle may be the price of remaining bearable now that Flint can witness ever last one of her personality quirks and oddities, bossiness included.

She's positioned, now, at the indicated end. She slips her hands under it in a way that suggests that maybe she might be able to start carrying it, though the looseness of her muscles suggests that this has yet to leave the purely theoretical. You see, Flint, causation can't be so easily established. Correlation, really, is the most you can hope for, even in the most practical and simple of experiments.

How perceptive Flint is or isn't is hard to tell from the way he speaks and behaves 99% of the time. Bella has probably been around him long enough to recognize that his level of awareness seems to have a correlation with the uncomfortableness of a given problem, person or subject. Unless it's something he doesn't want to think about, in which case, color him entirely blind.

Unfortunately he is too much himself to confirm that he pays enough attention for that correlation to be anything but a correlation. So the cycle of inscrutable reticence continues.

He hooks his hands up under his end and assumes the weight of it without counting to three first, wisened enough to lift from the knees for all that he has to drop one shoulder to adjust his grip once he's up, the wires in his neck popped taut. Then he starts walking. Hopefully she does too.

Well, that's one way to keep the mystery in a relationship. Who the hell ever said communication was important? Psychologists? What do they know?

Hoooly shit that's heavy. Bella feels her arm muscles go from limp to taut to trembling in just under a second. She even gives a frightened little warble, something like: 'aaaAaaaaAAaah…' followed by a rapid fire 'holdonholdonholdon!' which plea is not actually aimed at Deckard so much as gravity, which she is hoping will pause in its relentless bending of space time for just a second, so Bella could figure out if she needs to drop these prints or…

Or slip her shoulder under them, which she does, a technique that has the advantage of not putting her in danger of pulling something, though at the cost of the box's bottom edge biting into her collar bone. And she's walking. God knows, she's walking. She wants this over with as soon as possible. Her chin presses against the side of the boxes, as if maybe a sharp jab will make them move faster of their own accord.

Deckard grunts predictably, absorbing as much as her shuffling around and changing position as he can without — yelling at her, or. Intentionally mowing over her with her own paintings. There may be a part of him that is wishing he'd left his phone on vibrate, though.

Judging himself the more openly communicative one out've the pair of them, Deckard keeps walking in stormy, box-laden silence, focus fixed on some distant marker or another to inform him of exactly how far they still have to go. Three blocks, was it?

It's long. Too long. And at several points Bella whimpers and begs for a break. Which, if not given in some good time, will bring her end crashing to the ground with the sound of shattering glass and maybe, if they're lucky, the crack of a wooden frame. If given, though, leading to piteous rubbing of her shoulder and a totally venomous look directed at their shared burden. She can only hope that the accumulated cognitive dissonance produced by this painful procedure will make her think these prints are Immortal Beauty itself.

Up and at it, though, after just a minute's pause each time. Bella wants this over with. The plus side is that they don't have to wait for any crossing lights, though honestly the wait might be welcomed as a reprieve by some involved. When they finally reach the door to their building, Bella actually has tears in her eyes, her face a mask of discomfort that is only slightly more pitiable than it is unattractive, which it is both to no small degree. Her cheeks are flushed, the combination of too-pink skin and red hair framing making for a color clash only acceptable on Valentine's Day.

For all that Flint doesn't complain, he looks like he's in some pain himself by the time he's levered the door open with his foot and backed his way in towards the elevator. Which is working today. Because if it wasn't, now would be a bad time for him to get in the owner's face about it.

He doesn't comment on the state of her, but he has his sunglasses on inside and hasn't commented on the state of anything else either. Not even once he's bumped the apartment door open and the paintings are in and he's dumped his half with enough care not to break them (or her) but not enough care to suggest that he cares overmuch if he breaks something else instead.

Then he sits on the couch. And lights up a cigarette.

Bella takes a moment to recover herself, said recovery performed while kneeling next to the boxes as they lie on the floor, a hand lifting to grip her shoulder, rocking back and forth slightly in a regressively childish way, biting her lip and screwing up her eyes. However stupid and embarrassing, the technique works, and she's up on her feet in not too long, arms held out briefly to readjust to a standing equilibrium that doesn't involve a massive weight imbalance.

And then it's over to the couch she goes. Up behind it, behind him, and then, without warning, she's got her arms around him. What's this? The kiss, high on his cheek, is followed by a: "Thank you," which means… it's gratitude again. The same dish she's been serving him for the past while.

She's up and off him too quickly for dessert metaphors to be safely applied. Heading into the kitchen. "I'm getting a knife. Do we have a hammer anywhere? Or something to serve as a hammer?"

Flint's scruffy head tilts down and away from what kind of kiss he already knows it's going to be, cancer stick dangerously near the clutch of her arm until she's drawn off of him and he can take his first real drag. If a slight show of his teeth is any indication, gratitude is beginning to sit increasingly bitter on his palate, but. He adjusts his sit enough to draw his revolver out from the small of his back, cylinder sprung and six rounds dropped out into his palm so that he can kick it back in and sling the unloaded weapon lazily onto the far couch cushion. Close enough.

She was too close to the cigarette not to know he's breaking the rule. Looks like the more practical benefit of Bella's gratitude is her allowance. Which really might just mean his not having to ignore her reprimand, but hey, take it where you can get it, buddy.

Bella returns with a long knife, the kind used for slicing rather large things, when performing cooking tasks, something she does from time to time. She slides to her knees and begins to slice the plastic bands free, carefully cutting away from herself.

"I'd like to know what's on your mind," Bella says, as she works, "would you share? That used to be what we did. Or tried to do."

"I dunno," says Deckard after enough of dragged-through-gravel pause that he might be being honest. Or at least, not thinking of anything but how he'd forgotten how nice sitting down and not carrying three framed prints halfway across the neighborhood feels. Still, it's awfully concrete for an I dunno, too unwavering to project actual uncertainty past the grim set of his mouth.

"What's on yours?" is pretty much the most unsubtle diversion ever, but he looks just about the right amount of apathetic to employ it while peering down into a beer can to see if there's anything in it. So that he can use it as an ashtray. Not so that he can polish it off. Probably.

"Oh, you can't just put me on the spot like that," Bella says, sawing through the last millimeter of plastic and setting the knife aside, patting it gently on the handle, like maybe it will stay there safely if she makes it feel comfortable. Like kindness will make its edge duller, to her at least. "I just go blank." He can't see it, but she's casting a little smirk at him from her stoop on the floor. It's funny, you know, because… you know!

Bella uses her nail to slice the tape holding the first print enclosed in its box. She opens it, revealing… the back of the print. White stock, the back of a modest wooden frame, a little plastic bag that contains the nail and fitting for the wall hanging. She snares this last, standing up and scanning the wallspace for a good spot.

"Mostly?" Bella says, recovering the topic even after her own deflection, "trying not to be afraid all the time. Trying not to think too hard about the next month, the next week. Which doesn't work by itself so… distractions. I spend a lot of my time thinking up distractions. It's what I'm doing right now. Standard coping strategy."

"Mmm," says Deckard, mild in his disaffection. A flick at his cigarette spends more ash on the floor than into the can, and after a glance to see whether or not she's paying attention, he drags the flat of one boot across hot dust, smothering it against the wood. His slouch sinks deeper into the couch after that, smoke accumulating in a silky haze around the ceiling.

He could turn on the TV but doesn't, remote tripped out've his hand almost before he's picked it up to examine it. His cell phone gets a similar dismissal, pushed back into his pocket once he's gotten a vague idea of the time.

Something else he doesn't do is elaborate on what's on his mind, even though she was theoretically nice enough to go first or something. Instead he says: "That's all that's in there? You're just worried."

"Most everything else is incidental," Bella says, in a way that makes it sound like a 'yes', or maybe just a 'basically', but an affirmative either way, "situational thoughts. Consciousness, cognition. What's 'on my mind' generally is anxiety. Stress. Not uncommon, really."

She tilts her head, examining a certain likely spot. She walks up to it, looks back at the boxes, back up at the spot, over at the window on the wall running perpendicular, back up at the spot. The opening of the little plastic bag indicates that she's looking committed to this location. Apparently light and proportion are satisfactory. Sliding the nail through the hook and setting the tip against the wall, she calls to Flint over her shoulder. "Hammer please."

In the space she assumes it will take him to respond and react, she adds: "There are other things, too. Mixed thoughts and emotional states. But most of them come into play in relation to my worry. They make me less or more worried."

Sunglasses finally slid down the bridge of his nose and folded, Flint sets them to rest next to the old can, sits a moment as if to soak in a few last particles of couch, and finally pushes to his feet. The unloaded revolver is recollected on his way around the couch arm for Bella, grip flipped over once before he draws up into the region of her shoulder and holds it out for her to take.

He is tall and quiet and smells like he is smoking a cigarette inside. Because he is. As a kind of after thought, his left hand goes over her nail-poised hand to guide it a couple of inches further to the left before she can start hammering. Over a stud.

She gets a look at him, at least out of the corners of her eyes, and her nose twitches in three small sniffs. Pointed little sniffs. She knows what he's been up to. She just chooses to ignore it right now. She takes the revolver, hand closing then opening, closing then opening as she… tries to… figure out…


There is a moment's hesitation, hand poised by making no motion, before Bella steels herself (this is what it takes for her) and takes the impromptu hammer by the grip. She examines it, then presses it just below her chest, one handedly and inexpertly turning it around so that she's gripping the barrel. Another glance is cast at Flint, checking to see if he's checking for her reaction. If the revolver is just a revolver that happens to be the revolver from a certain incident of property damage, or if it is the revolver from that incident, purposefully.

But right now, it's not a revolver at all. It's a hammer. And Bella uses it as such. Eyes back to the task - wham - not very convincing - wham - that's better, it actually sunk in a little - WHAM! In it goes. Sinking into plaster that, thankfully, does not crumble instantly.

It's the same revolver. Matte black grip, dull grey everywhere else, barrel mid-length, neither snubbed short for an easy conceal or stretched long for extra accuracy. There are no exciting additions or modifications. The ridge of the sight at the nose has a daub of white paint on it that wasn't there when she saw it last. It's clean.

It's a .357 made for shooting people and it does that reliably and well.

That's pretty much it.

Flint is watching her, though, in a leniently interested kind of way until she sets to hammering and he tucks his hands down into his jacket pockets. All the better to turn and actually squint at what the first new addition is supposed to be.

It's face down. He'll have to flip it over to see. Or she will. And she will, once she's stepped back from her work and examines it with arms akimbo, feeling quite the handyman. Which she does, and next thing you know she's next to the boxes, slipping fingers between styrofoam packing and frame, sliding the print free and levering it up into visibility. It's…

Chaotic. A mass of color and form, evoke smoke and human figures and the metal casting of a steam locomotive. Abstract, almost cubist, but with too much clear motion. And with four numbers in what is the print's almost-center: '6943'.

Bella is hoping he'll take interest. The fact that he's looking gives her heart. She gestures towards it, Vanna White style. "Boccioni. States of Mind. The first one. 'Farewells'." Thanks freshman year Art History!

Art's never really been Deckard's thing, for all that he has some rudimentary ability to render lines into discernible sketchwork. He takes it in as a whole, though, cigarette balanced at the corner of his mouth while toxic smog seethes out through his sinuses and he looks to the print they already have. The one of two people with sacks over their heads making out.

"It looks dirty," is the only impression he's willing to voice at length — not actually an objection. Then his eyes blanch again in their sockets and he looks back to the couch, perception retreating like always into a different series of wavelengths altogether.

"It's a train station. Or something," Bella says, her own art expertise being pretty much limited to that class in undergrad, and the few times she's caught Sister Wendy on PBS. She goes to the MoMA and the MoA as a matter of almost civic duty. She can't say she's ever really lost herself in a painting. At least not while sober, at least. "So I guess that makes sense. Coal smog. Or something."

"It's just one of three," she explains, "The others I have here as well. 'Those Who Go' and 'Those Who Stay'. For now, though," Bella pats the top of the frame, "Let's get this one up, hm?" There's that 'us' again.

There is that 'us' again. Deckard's standing too close to not hear it. So maybe that makes it kind of uncomfortable when instead of slouching over to take up the first painting in the series, he wanders to collect his ash tray can, tabs off the latest clod of ashy debris and continues on indirectly into the kitchen.

Like a videogame NPC with its code stuck on an irrelevent loop. Or an asshole.

Most of his booze is in his own room, but there is a half-empty bottle of patron chilling in the freezer. And there are glasses. He pours a double shot into one that was probably meant for something more along the lines of apple juice, still smoking.

A moment of peace in the kitchen. And then she's in the doorway, arms lifted to either side in a way that suggests, absurd considering their relative size and body masses, that she has him cornered. It's more a psychological position, anyways. A posture, as in 'posturing'.

"You want to help me put these up," Bella informs him, with slightly inflected 'urgent fyi' tone, "trust me."

Salt. They have some. Probably not because of him, but — he locates it easily enough in its shaker, a single light shake out onto the floor confirming its contents before he shakes more into the waiting cup of his left palm.

He glances up when she lodges herself in the doorway, interest too passing to really qualify as polite. Cigarette snuffed down into his can on the counter, he doesn't actually look (mildly, maybe cynically at her expenses) intrigued until she informs him. That he wants to help her.

Incisors, canines and chilly eyes flashed up in a not-quite-leer before he wipes his palm clean with his tongue and reaches for the glass. "I do?"

The impact of his nearly-leer glances off her, the flat emphasis of her expression, the steadiness of her gaze, remain unwavering. When she nods, its deliberate and of her own accord, not a response as such, but a continued positive projection of her informative tone. Bella would have been a nightmare as an elementary school teacher. "Yes, you do."

One arm drops, the blockade across the door that was keeping him in once place ending, so that he may be free to comply. "Come on."

To Bella's credit, her placid insistence that he does, actually, want to help her hang paintings gives him a moment of wary pause. Like maybe he suspects just for a beat that she has some kind of reason for saying so. He looks to the drop of her arm, otherworldly glare intent. Measuring.

Then he downs his double shot and sweeps the finished beer can sideways off the counter and into the trashcan, which is progress but notably not progress in the direction of the living area.

There are only the slightest admitted deviations from her weapons lock fixity on his face, the barest recognitions of his insolent (yeah, that's right, insolent!) actions. She will not dignify them with her interest. She will screen them out. His gestures will not garner themselves attention, dammit. This is no way to communicate.

But it's too much. Bella's eyes close in a classic show of contained irritation. "Jesus Christ, Flint," she says, and she does not sound happy - she sounds as if she may have juuust lost her temper, "you couldn't possibly make this easy, could you? For both of us?" Her eyes reopen, and they are touched with the slightly haggard lidding of post-emotional inundation. "I'd like to believe it's possible that we can both get what we want."

Believe it or not, Deckard's pretty sharply attuned to the sound of a temper being lost. Teeth clenched against the trickle and burn of stolen tequila down his gullet, he sizes her up again all anew and afresh, hands blocked out and braced against the counter edge. Jesus Christ and he are often paired up together in expletive exclamations of exasperation.

Initially quiet, after discerning that he's not too likely to find a bullet in his back if he turns it, he reaches into the sink to set the water running into his freshly used glass. The tap sputters and coughs, kicking out enough to fill the cup halfway before he ticks it off again and rinses it out, placing it neatly upsidedown on the cutting board once he's done. His version of doing the dishes.


"What do you think we'd get if we both got what we wanted."

It's a lucky thing that Deckard is growing tired of gratitude, because rinsing out his cup is apparently not brownie-point worthy. She does watch this process, trusting it to articulate something, if not what is going on inside his head, then something relating to it. Every gesture a symptom, as long as it's not intended.

"I think," Bella begins, and the statement is followed by its predicate, her thinking, a process that takes long seconds, though not man of them, "that we might have something marginally satisfying in our lives. Both of us. It might even be the same thing. Sort of. Just from different sides."

"Being so vague that I can't tell what you're talking about doesn't actually count as honesty." You know that, right? says a cant of Deckard's brows, further cynicism muffled only somewhat by the rustle of a dish towel between his hands. Said towel is tossed aside without ever actually touching the glass and he finally settles himself back against the counter, brow hooded and jaw set.

Bella is about to do something she knows she shouldn't do. She knows she shouldn't do it, not just because it is an unsound method, but because it's what her mother does when she loses her temper. A rare event, but all the worse for it when it happened. Bella's arm goes up, hand bent at the wrist like the head of a snaker-charmer's cobra, and she points at Flint. And jabs.

"Fuck you," is her elegant rebuttal, "I will not do all the work here. I will not press you for something just so you can claim you didn't have a say, or never agreed, or have some other excuse to bail out. I'm vague? Fine. At least I say something. You want specifics? Help me. Because I don't know what the fuck this is supposed to look like either. I cannot do this alone."

Deckard condenses subtly at the jab of her finger, ropy muscle contracted to duck his head and pull in defensively at his shoulders. Generally a tactic found to be more effective for hedgehogs and armadillo lizards. His eyes stay on target, though, and most of the rest of him, underlying, hard-headed aggression enough to keep him from rolling up entirely. Presumably, anyway. It can't be pride.

"You always say no," is the only thing he can think to accuse warily back at her at length, pretty obviously still not sure if they're talking about the same thing. He transfers his stare to the refrigerator as if checking with it to see what it thinks.

If this is a standoff, it is rapidly heading towards open conflict. There is confrontation in every line of Bella's body. "You never ask nicely," she answers, "you need to treat me like I matter. Because I do. Or I'd better. Or you're really, thoroughly fucked. And so am I."

Deeper confusion lines out flat across Flint's forehead. He found her this nice place and usually does what she says and he's clean and burned Joseph like pushing a teddy bear's face against a stove. Genuinely stumped for more than the usual beat, he tries not to look the wrong kind of blank and probably fails, frown lines furrowed tellingly deep through the scruff around his mouth while he stumps brainlessly around in his own skull. "You matter."

"Then be nice to me," Bella insists, that same refrain, always a touch more pleading than she'd like, "I am not being stupid," she insists, but not to herself, as she has no need to justify herself to herself, dammit, "I need to know you'd do that for me. I need to know I won't feel like shit afterwards. Or like I've… given in."

For whatever reason Deckard is having a really hard time parsing what she's asking of him. Possibly because he thinks she is being stupid. Possibly because he never thought about it that way! The inscrutible furrow of his brow is open to interpretation, but there's still something like resentment slivered glassy into his glare when he rakes it over her again. He is trying to figure out whether or not she's telling him the truth — not all that subtly, either, even if the specific nature of his suspicion is more difficult to discern.

Bella's posture(ing) has lost the last of its thunder. She's leaning against the doorframe, one shoulder budged against the edge of the wooden mold. Her eyes remain on him, steady enough, but she looks more and more tired. Worn out. "I'd like to have something… just something. Something I don't have to worry about. Not like I have to worry about everything else. Sometimes, I feel like that with you. You are occasionally unbearable, but it never seems… pointless. I want that not to change," she closes her eyes, head tipping to the side, making a second point of contact with the frame.

"You don't have to disappoint me. I know you don't."

High expectations and Deckard don't really have a history of working out. Expectations in general and Deckard have problems, really. Too keenly aware of the implication that he is somehow disappointing so far, he has to grit his teeth in the little space allowed him by a close of her eyes. A bristle is contained in a claw at his hands, tendon writ out pale under knotted veins. It fades gradually while he considers his empty glass.

"I like you even though you're a bitch." is the conclusion he eventually comes to, quiet and gruff, “but you want me to be better."

She hadn't expected to laugh. But she does. Weary, yes. But a laugh. Her arm crosses over, fingers curling at the rough outer edge of the door frame's mold, nails pressing at the unsanded wood, grainy, threatening splinters.

"That's about the size of it," Bella says, head bobbing in a nod, "think that's enough to go on?"

Deckard doesn't laugh, which makes for an uncomfortably murky contrast on his side of the kitchen. It'd probably make him look uneasy that she does if he didn't already look uneasy in the sense that he is no longer looking at her or even the refrigerator. Also he doesn't answer her again.

Bella remains in her lean, her weight seeming to have comfortably settled against the x-vector of the wall, easing most of the burden off one of her legs. Not the leg, though. Just a leg. Which means, I guess, the other leg. A leg of no particular importance. When she looks at him, and she does look at him despite the lack of reciprocity, it takes on the aspect of a peer, framed closed by the fall of her hair.

"What stops you from saying 'yes'?"

"I dunno," is inevitable as ever. Also quieter than before, and at a sluggish remove — he's losing interest in the subject, or more significantly (and less specifically) in his desire to communicate at all. Slinking into the dark of his room or sneaking out of the apartment entirely is an increasingly appealing option — his glare skips vacant to the span of wall where a door should be somewhere on its opposite side. "I thought I was better."

"You are," Bella says from her odd little perch, right at the door, blocking his line of escape, "I just want to know it will stay that way. You have a tendency to fuck up things in your life when they get to a certain point. I know. It's the kind of thing I'm trained to notice," and really, if that's all she can do, they're paying her too much, "I don't want to be on the receiving end of that."

Either Deckard doesn't respect Bella enough to consider her an obstacle if he actually wants to get out or she is elaborately subtle enough in her positioning that he reads it as door denied without giving motive a second thought. Given that tension is still seeping gradually out've the set of his shoulders, the odds are currently in favor some degree of successful manipulation. So long face still turned indirectly away, he finally says, "Okay." Also, "Sorry."

Success enough, it seems, that Bella feels comfortable leaving her vigil. Though not as a gesture of relinquishment or retreat. Instead, she takes the opportunity to advance. Pushing herself up out of her lean, she moves across the space separating them, a few sidesteps bringing her into his line of sight whether he likes it or not. She reaches out and takes Flint by the shoulders, close, near where the oft-tight chords of his neck disappear into more general tension.

It's not appraisal that he gets. Nothing so receptive. Her expression is just slightly plaintive. She's not taking him in, she's setting herself out there. Or that, at least, is the subtle code of her mien. Only a rather careful reader will necessarily pick up on the nuance. What receptivity there is comes in the form of an anticipation. A waiting.

Too worn down to be overly resistant to contact, Flint stays dimly put, neither leaning into touch or flinching away from it. The black of his jacket is coarse; so is the bristle grizzled in around his neck. He has tequila and cigarette breath, the flat of his chest hefted slow over every dragging breath.

His eyes are worse closer in than they are at a distance, irises ringed too pale under the kitchen light, pupils too dilated, looking through her as much as at her when she's too close to be easily avoided. She's waiting.

So is he. Maybe to see what she is waiting for.

After a beat or two, he tips his chin down enough to glance fleetingly to one of the hands she has on his shoulders.

Why Bella waits on him… honestly, she doesn't know. Correction, she does know why, she just doesn't know why she hasn't abandoned the strategy. Perhaps she should be grateful. He's at least keeping his promise - he won't bother her.

When Flint tips his chin, her hand lifts to it, guiding him back to the level of her gaze. Just one blink breaks the steadiness of her gaze.

"Kiss me," is simple enough request, though it takes work for her not to embellish, qualify or counterbalance with cajole or threat.

Not ignorant of strangeness so much as he has grown somewhat immune to it, Flint doesn't do the usual thing where he squints to seek out whether or not she's fucking with him through the bump and push of blood pressure and muscle laid in around bone.

Also he has had a lot of time to get familiar with the sound of her giving him directions she expects him to follow, so.

One hand lifted and nearly settled in the region of her side before it retracts to hover in the dead space just beside it, he leans to kiss her. Careful and bristly and metered slow, not too fast or deep or needy. Until he has a start and gains a touch of confidence and leans in another few degrees or so. Then. Maybe a little needy.

That need comes as something of a relief. Not just because of her anxieties about what crossing this threshold purposefully will do to her mystique, that unique feminine burden. Not only due to a wish to confirm that she does, as she wants and he claims, matter. It doesn't hurt, of course. But the true relief is that, with him being needy, Bella doesn't have to be.

And she would be put out if it fell upon her to bring necessity into this kiss. It was enough, she judges, that she initiated it.

This is it, though. Her eyes are closed, her chin lifted. The touch of her fingertips attain a certain pressure, a number of pascals roughly equaling want.

The kitchen seems a lot quieter now than it did even when she was at the door and he was at the counter and neither of them were saying anything. The kind of quiet that need to be quiet for retarded fear that someone might be listening. Joseph's ear pressed to the front door or the Institute squinting suspiciously at the far end of a bug.

Flint's thumb keeps tripping at the tail of her shirt now that the rest of his hand has slid to a halt there, achey reflex tempered by the same conscious effort that keeps him where he is and not — pushing for something to lever her back against, even if a number of likely options spring to mind.

He keeps up contact for a little longer than it feels like he should, paranoia prickling hot at the scruff of his neck until he turns his face down again and rolls his eyes up to check on her. And the front door. (Nobody's there.)

There's a slide of Bella's hands too, down to the front of Flint's own shirt, touch on the light side of intimate but definitely giving the sense that they mean to be there. That this is not a mistake or a coincidence.

He also receives a mirror look. Not exactly a 'how was it for you?' exchange, but certainly inquisitive. She restrains an urge to bite her lip. It would be a bit of a show anyways, and Bella doesn't want this to be a performance. It'd be easier, but it's not what she's after. And she has a sneaking feeling like he might be able to tell.

"My room is cleaner," is sort of a fact, but also a suggestion. She tilts herself up and kisses the wire-bristled line of his jaw, delicately, a birdish breadcrumb of a peck. "Come on."

"Okay," breathed with enough restraint to keep him rooted with her rather than breaking the sound barrier blazing into the indicated bedroom, Flint hesitates long enough to kiss her again once he's tilted his head after her touch. Shorter and less involved this time — easy affirmation that he wants to kiss her in this way and can and also that she will let him.

Everything else: the other room is there for, one last (dustily wary) look swept sidelong down after her before he leans to lead the way.

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