wf_bella2_icon.gif wf_calvin1_icon.gif wf_deckard3_icon.gif wf_logan2_icon.gif wf_odessa2_icon.gif

Scene Title Gestalt
Synopsis Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time.
Date July 25, 2011

In dreams.

There's a sterile, arctic quality to the air blowing cold through slatted vents overhead, paired rows of metal chairs with thin cushions interspersed between small tables of magazines and boxes of kleenex. The walls are clean, even of generically pleasing Monet or prescription advertisements. There is no fish tank. There are no legos.

A boy sits at Bella's side, no older than eleven, gingery hair shorn short, face long. He's in a hoodie draw-string jacket and jeans that show the coltish lank of his legs. Same as a shaved patch at the scruff of his neck shows stitching zipped up thick in a tidy line to the base of his skull. Blue eyes, jutted jaw.

No one else is here to distract from the fact that he won't talk to her. Not even a receptionist.

It's like there's frost in her bones, the chilly air stiffening her marrow making Bella sit up-upright, posture less poised than pinioned, arms and back held just so by some internal constraint. The whirr of the wintery air conditioning becomes a roar in her ears, intermittently, and she must distract herself from the phenomenally augmented din by letting her eyes coast over the covers of the magazines; eyes only, guessing at the missing bits of words truncated by other glossy volumes.

She doesn't care for them. Celebrity garbage and pulp anthropology. But it gives her something to do other than shoot quick glances at the neat row of stitches, which she does, but quickly, and never for long.

One glance too many, and she reaches out to pull the hood up over his short hair, tugging it 'til it doesn't sit crooked. Covering his scruff, along with the rest of his head.

"It's cold," she explains, hands returning to their haven in her lap, elbows angled back into their former positions, inches from the metal frame of her chair's back.

A defensive hike of Calvin's near shoulder isn't enough to stave off her rearrangement of his hood, same as a sideways, winding wriggle of his spine isn't enough of a ill-tempered don't touch me to stave off initial contact. He isn't reading either, preferring instead to brood at the door that admits patients. Currently, it's closed. More importantly, it's in the direction opposite of Bella.

He leaves the hood up, though, not reaching to dislodge it even when he lifts a hand to push at the snub of his nose.

Fine, be that way, seems to be the party line here. Bella's reception is tolerant, that most vaunted quality of the Millennial turn. She looks at the wall next, then down to her hands as she draws back the sleeve of her jacket and reveals the silver face of a wrist watch.

"How long can this possibly take?" is as good as rhetorical, requiring no response - some small mercy for both of them. She shifts slightly in her seat, a convenient illustration of the stiffness that comes from sitting in one place for too long. "This is getting positively purgatorial."

Rhetorical. As good as. Calvin doesn't seem to hear or pretends not to, eyes falling to study the open lace of his left tennis shoe. His hands fidget without moving to retie it, restless unease contained to a feel through his hoodie pockets and then a sigh instead.

"Maybe we can come back tomorrow."

Already his vowels are drawn too lofty and long, alien Aussie and European influence stripping familiarity from the too-light tread of his diction. And for all that he tries to sound boredly disinterested in his own posit or her answer, he turns enough to look back at her before she gives it.

When she meets his eyes, Bella's brows edge up very slightly, like she's surprised. It's accentuated by the etching of three worry lines on her forehead, which grow slightly deeper.

"I don't think so, Calvin" she says, "I think we have to wait.

"Some things must be borne."

Twenty years down the line, he might commend her clever language. Irony or double entendre or whatever at his eleven-year-old expense — too much read into that ruling. Or just the right amount.

Here, now, after determining with that look that she won't change her mind, he doesn't argue, disciplined enough to seek satisfaction in short-lived bouts of ambiguous silent treatment that must be genetic, somehow. Head stooped enough under his hood as stiffness will allow, he picks at his untied shoelace and then a hole worn stylishly into the knee of his jeans.

When he finally does speak, the barb is too-well-aimed to be deliberate. He's too young, senses of malice and forethought not yet developed enough to foster enmity into a quietly sulky: "When do I go back to school?"


"What's the point?"

Holding cells are not all the same. This one is very nice, by industry standards: it's quite clean, and up until Bella's arrival, Calvin was the only one in it. "Why can't you just ffu…why can't you just tell them to leave me alone?" Language.

She knows the doctor outside — not quite a colleague — which may be why she was allowed in her alone, after a polite patdown search and surrendering her purse ("Midtown again. Northeast side. You were right.") The door is solid save for a tiny window, and there are no other portals, two-way or otherwise. Just one visible camera poised at one corner of the ceiling and the guard and lab coat eavesdropping outside.

He's been crying, obviously, red in the eyes and ears and nose, and his cuffs are a little tight around the back. Fresh bruising at his elbows is to be expected, t-shirt stretched loose around the collar, blue jeans bloody at one knee.

"I met a guy who said there's a paper you can sign - some kind of release." He's rambling, heated.

The camera's beetleblack stare is felt heavy on Bella's shoulders as she picks her way across the holding cell floor, stopping at about arms reach away from him. Arms reach for her - his arms reach is not a terrifically relevant measure at this point.

"You think I've done less than everything?" she says, a tightness in her voice filtering whatever she's feeling into a strained sort of chiding, "you come to me with these things you don't-" she closes her eyes, nostrils flaring in a deliberate inhale-

"Do not sign anything without letting me know." Her gaze is stern, but the corners of her lips tug down without her full consent.

Calvin tries to snort at her, but with his sinuses all clogged the best he can manage is a horsey expulsion of breath emotional-like through his teeth. His hair's shorn short, as before, a not-quite military grade crew cut to offset baggy jeans and fitted tee. Taller than her, shoulders bunched with latent aggression.

Seethingly unhappy but not threatening.

Unfortunately, "I dunno what you've done!" is shouted loudly enough in her face that some misunderstanding on that account might be understandable. The guard outside tenses at the echo ringing through the door.

An uneven, shuddery breath later, he's calmer. Or at least quieter, blue eyes glazed bright against bloodshot pink and red. "In a few months I'll be eighteen and I can sign whatever I f—freaking want. Alright?" A turn and scrub of his nose against his shoulder does little to mask resentful upset. "Then you won't have to worry about picking me up all the time."

"You have no fucking idea- what I-" Bella starts with a spike of anger, clothed thinly in a well worn indignance, "in this day and age- I swear to God, Calvin, I-" her voice quavers, then levels out somewhat, "understand the need for this- this acting out but you cannot ignore certain realities. I can't ignore certain realities. And if that doesn't miraculously change in those few months - which, Lord knows, it won't - you are going to find that out whether you're ready or not.

"And nothing about this," she gestures at him, at the disarray, "suggests you're ready."

There is severity worked into the lines of her face, the one she's earned; severity and disappointment and anxiety and the ghost of a petulance she's mostly outgrown. Still, these delineations of feeling soften, starting at the slight quiver of her lip, again tugged down by a psychic gravity. She reaches out, motion a few degrees from tremulous, and clasps his head in both hands, applying pressure to guide his eyes to hers. She steps forward one half step.

"I have no choice but to worry," she says, low, "but please, please- don't make me worry more than I have to."

That peak of anger is met with a defensive bristle in kind, tension bit transparent through the flex of his wire-strung neck and wrenched forearms in a slanting lean forward, as if to meet her halfway. Daring accusation and doubt alike narrow his eyes and flare his nostrils — clearly he has some kind of idea — but he never gets far enough to fire.

Her lip quivers and he rankles immediately into sternum-clenched guilt in place of more volatile anger, collapsing and condensing inward into a penitent hunch that makes him easier to manuever. Physically.


If he has some lingering discomfort about her touching him, he hides it well past an initial reflexive attempt to duck away. If anything the flicker of unconscious apology that follows is more telling. It's very hard for him to look at her with so much floor around to study.

"I'm not 'acting out,'" is subdued enough, at least, aside from another waver he can't suppress. He's quiet too, once he's had time to think about where they are. Or try to. "I just don't want to be here."

Far be it from Bella to vocally insist in the verity of her diagnosis - she doesn't need his agreement to know she's right, only the necessity of her own belief, as ever. She perceives his statement less as argument than an exchange - he's not, he just; he won't, if she. Nothing beyond her power to corral, contain, correct.

He's taller than she, has been for some time, that being no grand feat, her height and his heritage considered. This means that there's still a fair bit of her between eye level and the floor that seems of so much interest, and some time to try and lead his look back to her in a (to her mind) gentle imperative.

"I will," - out of love, even through great difficulty, as ever - her tone implies, "do what I can."

It might be better to be adamant, to speak in guarantees, to demonstrate the strength of her conviction and depth of her resource. But Bella is loath to be made a confirmable liar. And 'what she can do' is, beyond a certain indefinitely oppressive point, no sure thing.

"Just be a little patient," is her offered exchange. Her hands fall to his shoulders, feeling for tension, for fatigue, for thinness, for a plethora of little signs that might mean health or malady, including the thumbs flanking his throat, discreetly seeking the biometric of his heart rate.

When she turns her head, it's to project her voice towards the eavesdroppers outside. "If we could conclude this, please? Bring me the papers. I'd like my son out of these cuffs."

Where the potential for deliberate untruth is cleverly filtered, the reassurance left behind is turned coldly over behind osprey eyes, pawn shop owner to pyrite. Scanty. Insufficient. And all he has. Defeated, Calvin's left to rake her for symptoms of witting deception even as she feels him over and finds him to be physically whole and fed and fine, breath on her face still hot with upset to match the hammer of his pulse under her hand when she turns to address the door.

"You know," he tells her, quietly, even hatefully intent below the din of boots and keys and lock and hinges in that way that angry teenagers can have: "Odessa would've let me go."


Bella Sheridan is doing very well for herself.

America is not. The apartment is cleaner and quieter than it's been just hours after the littlest Sheridan was released into the wilds of JFK International, open cardboard boxes and newspaper-wrapped ornaments aside. It's the headlines that show in uncrumpled sections that unsettle the most: Tuesday December 29th, 2020, Arrests Made in Juarez, Evolved Traffickers Face Charges of Treason and Sunday, December 27, 2020, Fallout from Edwards Air Force Base Expected To Reach Los Angeles by New Years. The flat screen television display shows a muted reporter gesturing at the aftermath of an explosive prison break at Riker's Island - one said to have released an undisclosed number of violent Evolved offenders back into the fight right here in New York.

Well. Not right here.

Here a bottle of wine is being opened, two glasses already standing ready on the kitchen table next to a pair of formal correctional visitor IDs (Sheridan, Bella and Sheridan, Calvin respectively) that have just become as irrelevant as the ornaments being wrapped and packed carefully away.

For two hours now, the scrolling text at the base of NBC’s breaking news has listed ‘Flint Deckard’ as one of the prisoners as of yet unaccounted for.

Odessa Price comes sweeping out of a bedroom she claimed as her own some time ago, whether by tacit agreement or… It’s Odessa. Most people, and Bella who’s not quite the classic definition of most people, tend not to question the whys of how Odessa goes about getting what she wants. In the scheme of things, a place to sleep is relatively negligible on the scale.

She stares at the television, single dark blue eye scanning along the scrolling headlines. She smiles a bit. “It’s too bad he won’t pop back in here.” Because in her mind, unaccounted for means escaped, and not dead. A distinction she doesn’t necessarily feel the need to voice to her partner in feminine crime. Odessa turns then, gaze settling on the bottle of wine. “Oooh. Is that a cab?”


With a deliberate press of the remote control's power button, Bella closes that virtual window to the world, dismissing it from her presence. "The less I know," she says, "the happier I am. Increaseth knowledge, increaseth sorrow." King Jamesiness spoken with irony alleviated by aloofness. A little residual Christianity must be excused, yuletide only recently having passed.

She's still looking at the black screen, though, as she gestures a little vaguely at the bottle. "Pour one for me as well?" is her request, pitch of her voice rising in the shadow of a plea. Pretty please, do this for me?

This will be her first glass of wine, but not her first drink. Eggnog is vile stuff, but the season required she buy it, her strangely selective stinginess requires her to drink it all, and the state of the world demands the rum that comes along with. Within the comfortable cotton lining of mid-stage drunk, Odessa's flippancy mostly bounces off of her. And after all, if she's willing to let Dr. Price stay with her, she's got to know that a certain heedlessness just comes with the territory.

“But of course, darling.” That the television set is switched off with such immediacy is not entirely lost on the generally-sort-of oblivious woman. Odessa would much rather fill their evening with wine and discourse on things that are more lighthearted (as much as it can be in these times) than talk about the other man in Bella’s life.

Though the man in Bella’s life (if we’re asking Odessa) is still just a boy by age, Odessa isn’t sure Calvin can really be called a child. Most of the children born into the world as they know it today have grown up far too fast. She empathises in the only way she knows how. And quashes the need for that empathy with wine, like she’s pouring now.

“It’s too quiet around here,” which isn’t a commentary about the lack of television, but the lack of the aforementioned mentioned young male presence. “We need music. Pick something for us?” Unlike Bella, for a change, this is Odessa’s first drink. And the glass she’s poured for herself is less generous than the one she’s poured for her… dear friend. Bella needs it more than she does, she imagines.

It's not often Bella ever really talked about Flint, even before. The issue now tends to send her into an associatively infectious spell of reticence that will only thaw out - with fair quickness - when the conversation heads for friendlier waters. Compartmentalization and containment - the same methods so spectacularly failing the nation.

"The pundits were right, you know," Bella quips, taking her wine, "about what started all this shit. It's single mothers, ruining America."

Her hand reaches out, fingers flexing at the air. Come here, come here. Bella begs for Odessa's free hand, even as she takes a long drink from her glass. A bit heavy on the self-med recently, but the holidays are very stressful, no less in 2020.

When she's secures he friend's hand she squeezes it and requests - "My Aim Is True? Indulge me." That's how you know she's enough herself to use Odessa's sympathy to her advantage, those words: 'Indulge me'.

Confident that Odessa is doing as she has so sweetly asked, Bella pulls her legs up in front of her, sliding her arms up around them and resting the bell of wine glass against her knees.

"Thank you, for being so good with Calvin. I sometimes worry- I never entirely know what's going on in his head. What parent ever does, though- still," she somberly considers her wine's tilted meniscus, then looks up at Odessa, "a child needs a commandant and a confessor, and I can't be both."

“It’s a good thing you don’t have to do this alone, then, isn’t it?” The squeeze of hand is returned, and just as Bella has asked for indulgence, so too does Odessa. Only she never actually asks. It’s always the sort of thing where she just does, and expects to be indulged. In this instance, it’s the kiss she drops on Bella’s cheek that begs the indulgence. Really, it falls closer to the corner of her mouth. Maybe Bella will feel exceptionally indulgent, or be too well on her way to drunk to care.

Or perhaps they’re simply past all that awkwardness after all this time. Heavens, small favours, thankfulness. “Costello it is,” the woman with hair like snow assents, slipping away only so she can fuss with the stereo. An antiquated thing even when she was in her early tenure with the Institute, positively ancient to the inquisitive gaze of Bella’s son. But Odessa always has had a fondness for the sound of the hiss and pop of vinyl.

It’s through practise and learning to read the grooves in the glossy black record that Odessa’s able to set the needle to the fifth song on Side A.

Oh it’s so funny to be seeing you after so long, girl…

Content with the volume of the music and lyrics filling the apartment, Odessa and her glass of red take up a place next to Bella and hers. “I know it’s hard for you. Hard when he’s here…” Harder when he’s gone. A long drink is taken before she drapes an arm around the back of their seating, fingers lightly brushing through the russet hair at the nape of Bella’s neck. “How’re you feeling?”

There's an hint of benediction to the way Bella confers Odessa's indulgence, appropriately ecclesiastical. Cheek tilted, expectant, mouth a gentle, composed curve - she could be kissing the ring for all Bella's condescension. It's an item in the repertoire she's had since, nine years previous, she assumed the inevitable with a grandeur that made her joke about using the royal we begin to seem not wholly in jest.

"Mmhm," she wordlessly affirms. She's not alone, no. She watches Odessa set the record to spinning with a warmness that three consecutive drinks and a fourth in the works probably contributes considerably to. Bella seems grateful for the touch when Odessa returns, her mood on the bluer end of the volatile spectrum all unmanageable emotions manifest upon.

"The choice between resentment and gratitude may be obvious, but it's not easy," sounds like wisdom, something delivered with the slight touch of mysticism that would be expunged from therapeutic discourse. "I worry what it does to him, being alone. I mean- there's just no way I'm going to put him in a school in this country. But that far away- and who the fuck knows what really goes on in those places? The shit you read-"

Her expression becomes pained, and her eyes close, but she leans back a bit against Odessa's touch and tries to find comfort there. And seems to, as her brow slowly - if not entirely - clears.

At length, eyes still closed: "I feel like I don't know what will last."

Odessa tilts her head, resting her cheek to Bella’s crown with an inaudible sigh. Not because the sentiment or the melancholy are exasperating, but because she doesn’t have the answers. No easy solutions to the way things are now. It’s a situation that’s less than ideal, and she feels the absence just as keenly as if the boy were her blood.

“Tell me what I can do.” It’s a request for orders that’s been made so many times before. It always has the same undercurrent to it. Should I steal him away? She feels she could, in all her glorious, time-controlling arrogance. Odessa is convinced she could snatch Calvin up and hide him away somewhere. But they would never be able to hide in one place for very long. Like it was in the old days for her. At twenty, she was far too young for that sort of life. It would be cruel to do the same now.

But she asks. The world is cruel already.

She knows what Odessa means. Her eyes slip open, cut to Odessa, then quickly flit away. "I- no. Not yet. I- I know you'd do anything and everything but it's- not something-" words, Bella words, you're usually pretty good with them, "not something I-

"It's like a fucking prison. This- ripping, screaming love, you have-" no idea, is what Bella means to say, but that's a particular screw there's no need to turn - that Odessa wants to steal Calvin away is, it takes no psychiatrist to postulate, compensatory.

"It's not reasonable- it's not even good. It just is. A persistent altered brain state." Bella shakes her head. "I couldn't do it. And it's- not even like it's the time for thinking about that, yet."

If the TV were still on, it might serve as a counterpoint. But she's silenced that opposition.

“Okay, Bella…” Odessa’s response is quiet, almost understated. She doesn’t agree that it isn’t the time, but in the end, he isn’t her son. “Whatever you feel is best. There’s time.” Always, in her case. The situation is complicated at best. Nuanced.

Wine. Odessa needs more of it when she realises she’s been taken frequent sips and now it’s all gone. But she feels Bella needs her more than she needs wine, and so she stays put. Bella will desire a refill eventually, and then she can take care of her needs.

“I love you,” feels necessary to say from time to time, even if it’s not a sentiment forgotten.

There's no small gratitude in Bella's smile, and she lifts a hand from her glass to cup Odessa's cheek as she catches hold of that single blue eye.

"I know," she says.

And before she might say more, if she'll say more, a knock comes at the door, setting Bella on sudden alert. "What the eff-" she says, initializing the curse word unnecessarily, with no one present's innocence to protect. She struggles to her feet and, only getting drunker, she fumbles her wine glass. Its wide belly bursts open, bloody, on the hardwood floor. "Shit!" uncensored by her compounded surprise.

"Just- hold on-" she says, to the broken glass perhaps, "could you- get some paper towels?" this to Odessa, with a hasty, half desperate glance. She makes her slightly unsteady way to the door, keeping the paranoiac's chain in place as she draws it open and peers outside.

Shifting limbs, aborted curses, and spilt wine. “Oh, Bella.” Odessa considers arguing that perhaps she is the one more fit to be answering the door, but this is the Casa de Sheridan. She can protect the woman without being the one to answer the door.

A twinge of doubt says otherwise. There are so many other variables.

Why does she fear what’s behind the door anyway? People knock on doors. It’s the generally accepted way of asking entrance. Or peddling bibles. Still, even as Odessa is moving to the kitchen to set her own glass aside and to get the necessary equipment to clean up Bella’s shattered one, one hand is coiling invisible threads around her fingers. Threads of time held taut that will need only a sharp tug to bring everything to a screeching halt. Or so this is how Odessa Price has chosen to describe how her ability works.

She only has to take her eyes off the door, and Bella, for an instant. Paranoia is hard to unlearn, and it creates a sick feeling in her stomach as she ducks out of sight. “Who’s out there, darling?” A query meant to announce that Doctor Sheridan isn’t alone.

The wind-tousled, not-quite blonde outside is waiting composedly (if not patiently) in lean pinstripes that make him statelier and an open collar that does not. One hand deeply pocketed, the other bearing gifts, John Logan lofts bow-tied champagne lightly by the neck in time for the receding door to catch on its chain only to have his brows trip down and back up again of their own accord at the state of her. Smell of her.

Slosh, says the bottle, when he tips it slowly on its axis. Taking her in. The relevant parts, once he's ascertained that everything below the neck is fine and Odessa's voice rings out in the whitewashed abyss beyond.

"…Bad time?"


The hills are alive

with the sound of mortar fire.

Miserable pigeons huddle and stir; a lone sentry howls on the wind, klaxon cycling end over end until it's silenced or its quarry is.

Up on this familiar stretch of roof at Chelsea's meaner edge, things are more peaceful. Evidence that battles stagger on despite the war's end is audible at a rolling remove, volume cresting and sloughing away again wave-like with the whims of an ash-mottled breeze. A horse lived here, once. An associate rake and shovel lie rusted into rot across each other, debris caked into crooked angles between the spades.

It's the end of a grey day at the end of a grey month at the end of a grey decade and there is no sun to differentiate pillars of smoke from low, seamy cloud cover. Flint blends against the desolation as an extension of it, close kempt scruff worn to silver and steel against the gaunt hatchet of his skull, one eye burning brighter than the other in his survey of the street below. Morbid finery defines his wardrobe these days: sleek suit and long coat stripped from residents too dead to mind. Blood and bodily stains fade to yellow over time.

The street is empty.

War does very few favors. Even the profiteers and warpigs can't getting terribly fat over the ruin of the infrastructure. And though Bella has continued to do well for herself, the pill pushing of her profession having taken priority over the old, sunny-day goal of enduring psychic wellness, she is no plumper nor rosier for the fineness of her own - not just purchased, but tailored - suit's weave.

Grey, that suit, navy her jacket, and silver her hair, some last strands of faded red holding out, but too few to justify reinforcement via dye. Cheeks a little hollow, webwork of lines stitching skin beneath eyes that keep watch behind prescription bifocals, Dr. Sheridan has given up some of the finer points of her vanity. A month into her venerable sixties, it may be about time.

It may also be about time to eschew as many flights of stairs as she's had to scale to reach the roof. There has been an impulse to stop by the old door, but one ruthlessly crushed by a thing that calls itself her dignity but may have other, less pretty names. She stops short of the last door to catch her breath; he can see her do this, of course, if he's a mind to, but like hell she's going to step out onto that crumbling vista while short of breath. That would rob her words of the necessary crispness.

"Good evening."

She tugs the belt on her jacket a little tighter - the wind, and the chill it brings, is a different beast this far above street level.

"Have anything to drink on you?"

The question is almost prim, as is her posture, feet - donned in heels so low as to hardly be worthy of the name - set just apart. Left wrist clasped in right hand.

"Mon petit choufleur."

Flint turns as if he hasn't been watching, even voice paved thick with the same dust that smudges the wool of his coat coarse and soots shadows in around the sink of his eyes. Deliberately irritating. Less deliberately disjointed: he has to work to remove himself from the roof's edge that he's already shown his back. The surrounding architecture is more exposed than he remembers.

His eyes are slow to dim accordingly, one flickering faulty on its way to winding down while he takes her in. Tired. Normal. Relaxed or relieved or wearily, scruffily pleased enough to see her that tension strapped stiff across his spine easing gradually out through his shoulders is as hard to hide as his asymmetry: the bony fingers he brushes past the lapel of his coat withdraw with a metallic flask in hand. The others flex idle at his opposite side, steel and copper and carbon locked into an austere, mechanical reduction of human anatomy. Biological fidgets manifest in insectoid clicks and servo sizzles that no longer prick his ears or draw his eyes down from his read of her suit. Heels. Posture.


It's nearly enough to provoke a preemptive strike. But he clamps his jaw before anything can dart through it and stifles a deep-drawn breath into a sigh, polite enough in his unintentionally silent offer of flask and associate hooch. His gaze flickers aside. He resettles his weight.

"You look nice."

For all that there's a certain teetotaling schoolmarmishness in her bearing, Bella takes the flask like it's no big thing, working the steel aperture. It's the way she sniffs at it - sniffing itself is understandable, she'd like to know what she's in for before she swigs - that's a little odd, hand wafting air from the flask's open mouth against her poised nose, a method that would seem extreme fussy if it didn't look so practiced, nearly automatic.

It's a chemist's sniff - a precaution to prevent dangerously deep inhalations. And even without habit to excuse her - for it is a habit, this apothecary's trick - maybe she has reason for care: what the hell kind of liquor is a mechanical man capable of drinking?

"You know I detest it when foreign languages are spoken in my presence," may be a reprimand made in jest - should be, but all means - but it is terrifically difficult to tell since the cast of her face, impassive with a bare hint of wryness, is so set.

This lasts until she takes a drink. It's strong, she could tell, if not turpentine, but still the high proof of the beverage, plus the high percentage of fibrous byproduct, makes her blanch a little. She keeps it down. Hands the flask back.

"Suggestion:" Bella imparts, giving Flint a wary look, "keep rinds and peels out of the still. You're getting an awful lot of methanol." All criticisms - maybe he should have struck preemptively! She reads his posture. Perceives his pleasure ('enough', apparently). Permits his compliment as maybe a bit of real manners. Repents.

"I could get you the apparatus for a beer still, you know," she offers, peaceably, "have it sent over, with instructions if you needed them. Assuming your last known address is still," she gestures vaguely at the smoldering skyline, "intact."

She turns from the view, still a decent stride from the edge of the roof, which she avoids with mistrust, favoring instead the battered outline of Flint's face. She adjusts her glasses, mostly unselfconscious; on an absolute scale of prosthetics, bionic replacements beat out corrective lenses.

"You look surprisingly well yourself," a thin twist of a smile, "you've a mug for misfortune."

Flint watches her waft at a steady (tolerant) remove, chin tilted back on the lax sit of his skull against his neck for the duration of her assessment. Constructive criticism is absorbed at roughly the same slant. Not offended. Bleakly disinterested in being Told anything, maybe. Mind elsewhere. Bigger problems than rinds in stills. He hasn't partaken, anyway — and he doesn't drink now, capping his booze with a flat, spidery tick tckck where metal phalanges meet flask.

"I have a mug," he concedes, and then half-smiles, oddly timed: a merker for the exact moment it becomes painfully apparent that he doesn't intend to acknowledge her offer of the still. The lines carved in stark around his mouth make it look more like a grimace when he dips his chin back down to tuck the flask away.

"Calvin came by, today." Wasting no time, then. Or only as much time as has already gone by. "He says he's going back in time."

"When has that ever worked out for anybody?" is Bella's question, acridly rhetorical, "it's desperate nonsense. Irresponsible. The equivalent of a dissociative fugue. Anyone with a speck of maturity would confront their problems in the here and now."

Her words are punctuated by the concussive sound of a detonation, a little closer than the others. There is only a minute flinch - she keeps her composure, mostly. More spoke pours up into the war-scorched sky.

"What does that mean, for us? Will we cease to be? To have ever been? I'm not really clear on how all this works." This is sort of a joke, sort of a running one - she's a doctor, not a chrononaut - but its edges are ragged and her next words come out with a wavering pitch that betrays her emotions.

"Will he ever come back?"

"I dunno," is as inevitable as — inevitability. Time travel and all of its associate implications are not things he enjoys thinking about, accounting even for the battered tatter of his long-term memory. That is to say, he knows he's been at the giving and receiving ends of temporal fuckery and forty years later, fancies neither. Eyes cast down after the latest shockwave's patted flat across his back, it's a while before he speaks again. Not until he's shuffled around his person after a cigarette.

"Something was wrong with him."

"What do you mean by that?" Bella's interest has an edge to it, something defensively aggressive in the flatness of the question. Even her posture changes, primness departing for a somewhat more combative stance. Arms crossed, feet set further apart. One hand in her jacket, by a lump of lethal metal she had to learn to use sooner or later.

Not that she's thinking of shooting him! Or anyone, necessarily. The reaction is involuntary as chemically hardwired things can be. And in listening, some of her initial combative tension eases off- though some of her prickle, a fairly spiny one, remains intact.

Flint waits to light up before he grimaces again, good nature strained thin through rough-hewn edges and finer furrows that have as much to say about age as they do character. This time, "I dunno," has a leery, less ambiguous edge, and can be translated accordingly: You know him better than I do, and I'm not sure we want to know.

His eyes steer away after that last detonation and the ember of his cigarette follows, cherry puckered orange under a creeping burn to spectral blue.

"There's a group of them. He said they're going to make things better."

"Well- I guess that's a noble aspiration. Unless they just mean 'better for them'." Bella, to whom there is always a shitty lining, or might be. "Who is this group, exactly? How did Calvin fall in with them? I can't exactly keep an eye on him."

She turns, arms still crossed as she looks right up at Flint, lenses on her nose catching the light of fires reflected off the clouds.

"What, precisely, did he tell you? Or was he quite as concise as you are being?"

"Some other kids with the Ferry." An absent shake of Flint's head is vaguely synonymous with a shrug. Lukewarm irritated in his willful ignorance. Himself. He is busy dimly recognizing why Calvin didn't swing by to tell her himself. Also, smoking, which feels even better now than it did the last time he started again.

Thirty-year-olds are now 'kids.'

"I dunno how he knows them. Maybe the radio." He doesn't shake his head again. Doesn't have to. The look in his eye when he draws his smoke away in a winding line is blank enough.

"He said to tell you he loves you."

"Oh-" Bella says, a round little sound that is aperture for a "well, that's- that's nice. He- told you- to tell me? That's- that's really fucking nice.

"And what-" that unevenness in tones is back, hills and valleys steeper, "is keeping him from telling me himself? From doing his mother the courtesy of seeing her face to face before- before plunging into the abyss.

"What fucking gratitude- I-" eyes slashing over to Flint, "you-

"Sons of bitches, both of you," and now tears come, hot, breaking early into rivulets as they catch in the lines of her face. "Love means a whole fuckload when you're not around to make good on it."

But it the episode stops there. There is a palpable gathering as she pulls herself back from the state of liquid collapses, nostrils contracting as she inhales sharply, suppressing any further hysterics. A hand, perched on her chest. A brief closing of her eyes.

"Maybe-" she says, lids still stooped, "changing everything is- for the best." Open, she sees the ruined skyline. "I don't much care for how this turned out."

She's unable to keep bitterness entirely out her words.

There's a tangible flinch across Flint's tired face, jaw sunk hollow on its hinges, as if against a clout to the nose. His scar-bit brow and nose turn down, guilty and resentful in uneven tandem to match the stiffer belt of cast iron muscle across his shoulders and chest. Maybe he agrees.

Maybe that's why he doesn't say anything.

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