He's Not Here


deckard_icon.gif joseph_icon.gif

Scene Title He's Not Here
Synopsis Two men come in search of God and find EACH OTHER.
Date August 27, 2011

Greenwich Village: Ruins of the Guiding Light Baptist Church

Faltering summer rain runs in steadier streams through the spaces between burned out floors, collecting in hollows blackened into churchly rot. A pair of pews still standing are host to murky pools in their seats and patches of low cloud cover show sickly brown between rafters stooped like ribs against the thunderstorm's passing.

Walls and floors and ceilings burned through show upper levels too treacherous to risk setting foot on and the only remaining staircase is slick with decay.

The pulpit's still here, cracked and glittery wet at center stage.

Flint hasn't gone near it, preferring to skulk close to exposed studs, where the rickety angles of his frame blend naturally against charcoal and dark wood. Firefly flickers of blue mark his progress off to one side, with occasional stoops after flecks of buried metal to keep him occupied until the rain is over entirely.

The door is sort of always open. The off-limits tape used to be yellow and is now a dirty murkier version of its former colour, loose and torn like streamers post-parade. A little, lost corner of Greenwich Village, except for those who know the way back.

Joseph is one such person.

His movements are bustling and rushed as opposed to reverent approach — maybe if it wasn't raining, he'd have crept in quietly to go and find a place to sit and reflect, unheeding of the way the roof sags and could give it at any moment. He figures maybe it would have done that already during the snowstorms — or maybe doesn't figure it at all. Anyway. He wants to get out of the rain, and does with a few shuffles and a pause to ruffle his hair of water beneath intact roof. Pragmatic walking boots make gathered puddles from this rain and ones passed, left undrained, ripple and reflect the light getting in.

There's a smear of pinpoint light in Joseph's periphery — the swivel of Flint's long face over his shoulder in the beat before his glare muffles dark.

The span of battered wall it calls attention to is not specific; support beams tilt thick from floor to ceiling in the intervening space, too heavy to budge in wind or rain or snow. Flint is still in the shadows they cast, movement kept to weaves and spits of dirty runoff through the rafters. Even in the carpentry nail rusted through his fingers pauses turning over itself until passing headlights roll yellow from one wall to the next and he is made in blue jeans, boots and a dark t-shirt.

Tall, guant. Shouldn't be here.


Joseph is physically unable to skulk in this manner, or respond very well to it that would be genre appropriate. At the sign of movement, though, he naturally goes still and suspicious, before the familiarity of the outline that Deckard makes across the church has him relaxing again, which is not a response Deckard can say he induces in too many people, really, friend and stranger alike. "Hey," he says, his tone bright, glad, earnest, all of those things it tends to be when caught off guard and genuine. His hand grips the edge of the church door, crippled and blackened through it is, and wedges it a little shut against the silvery rain blowing in.

He moves cautious through the space, then, in indirect meander closer. "'s been a while."

It has.

Deckard is quiet while he struggles to remember the context of their last visit, brain gummed with deliberate misdirection and unsteady attempts to forget. Or at least to not think about it.

Abigail was there, finely set nose and brown hair.

That's about as far as he gets before he determines that it doesn't matter and probably wasn't important and has nothing to do with what's drawn him here, anyway.


His eyes light and Joseph's ease of mind lends some ease to the set of his shoulders as well, unconscious emission of trust absorbed and retransmitted. People used to come here to listen. He remembers that, one breath spookier than the last at imagery so starkly out of place.

Meanwhile the moment to pretend like this is a deliberate crossing of paths comes and goes.

And the moment where Joseph wonders if Deckard somehow followed him is fleeting, dismissed because, well, Flint was here first.

This is better, random chance, and he takes a moment to be mildly abashed that he is discovered here, moving around the wreckage that cuts out the heart of the church and coming to stand somewhere within casual conversational distance. In contrast, he remembers, quite starkly, the last time they talked. It's why he's nervously scratching at the back of his neck as he considers what happens beyond hey. Hey. "Don't get time to come out here real often anymore," he says, after not too long a pause.

"It's risky. But— " His hands make an elaborate dismissal. "I like to make it out, when I can. Not much a crowd," is added, with a nod to the pews.

The Ferry wants him to deal with Calvin.

Concentrated effort pounded into thinking about anything but sparks cold and sharp into recollection and Flint has to physically twitch to shake it off, nose rankled and spectral glare flicked down. He's sketchily tense again that quick, sobriety like ice in his veins, all awakeness and shrill awareness. Of everything. Sight. Sound.

The cloying taste of rain in the air and the long, rusty nail damp in his hand in the middle of country talk about the church that Joseph is trying to have at him. He looks more like his self with hot wire exposed and glare acute in its second scan across the younger man's face. Familiar if not strictly friendly.

"Why didn't you start over?"

It's only a surprising question in its timing. Geographically and philosophically, it's reasonably sound.

"With this?" Joseph asks, that rare sliver of cynicism in his voice, tone automatically a little bleaker but only fractionally. His arms fold around him, casting his mind right back into the hazy recollections of that many months ago. It's been a while, demons reduced to ghosts and phantom memories. "I wasn't in no state to be preaching again," he says, after some wary handling over memory land and an uncomfortable shrug. The black-brown glance over is a bit murky to detect the nuances of in this light, unlike bright glowing blue, but it's meant to communicate— you remember.

Or not. It's been a while, and there's also been a lot of alcohol and other exciting things. Wishful thinking, of course, that anyone but Joseph would forget the aftermath of his church burning down. "And ever since it just seems dangerous. Why, ya miss the Sunday services?"

That was then. Alternatives must exist. There's a safer middleground somewhere, offering services within Ferry confines only, or.

Deckard doesn't like the answer, is what it boils down to. Equal parts suspicious of and restlessly disinterested in Joseph's logic. He fails to play along accordingly, jab brushed past without acknowledgement for all that he doesn't overtly press the issue.

He wasn't asking because he misses it, pacing skepticism in the check and swivel of his glare from mark to mark. Respiration and muscular tension and heart rate.

"Have you killed anyone yet?"

There's a moment there like maybe Joseph doesn't want to tolerate this anymore, actually, a restless swivelled glance back at Deckard as hands come to rest on his hips and he casts his attention back to the rotted inside of the ruined church. But he sighs instead, listens a little to the warm, insistent rain outside. "Nope," after a moment. "But I got pretty close associates who have, and I've spoken sermons over the ones we lost on our side.

"Are you okay?" is tagged on the end, quite deliberately. Enunciated, either, which stands out from the laziness his words usually have.

The start of a turn at the long flank of Flint's face doesn't carry on into enough of an indication to translate. "Who is?" sounds awfully philisophical for the source, t-shirt dark with wet and scruff curling damp at the nape of his neck.

"We're all getting worse."

Joseph edges aside a restless step, uncertain silence rendering him mute again as he turns an uncomfortable look away and up a wall that used to be very starkly white, almost rehab-like, and is since dirtied and peeled and bloated where it hasn't been cracked black by old fire. "Lots've things are," he offers, instead of argument — some of him wants to argue, because he disagrees, but justifying himself has never come too naturally if you can't just say it's what God intended.

"The, uh."

He clears his throat, mentally groping after the fragments of plans and considerations for the wards of the Ferry when things get too worse. "We're looking at makin' some ways out, overseas, for those that want to. I haven' really thought've it for myself, yet, but if you want to come with if I do— maybe things'll get better. You can bring— "

You know. Her. Joseph doesn't say her name because that's nine kinds of awkward, but letting it go unsaid seems bad form.

Deckard's adjusted focus is simultaneously nebulous and narrow, pupils shuttered after a writhing silence that flexes his hands at his sides and pulls cords taut through his neck. He isn't saying what he means, frustration eroding composure in uneven slides and starts. Communication breakdown.

The demanded Where? that is Flint's impulse and a source of necessary curiosity comes blurted out in a pathetic, abrupt (and slightly retarded): "I want to leave."

Oblivious, for once, to frustrations at a failure to communicate— and that is something of a turned table— Joseph takes a breath, let's it out with, "We looked into Hungary. So far. Norway. It's a starting point if quaint lil' Catholic towns ain't your thing." Joseph isn't sure if it's his, but it was a nice vacation. "I got pictures, of the former, if you're in'erested. Kaylee kept wantin' to snap a few of the, you know, buildings and things."

Actually that was all him, but. What's the good of a too-young girlfriend if you can't blame them for things?

And the sex.

"It'd be nice for a while, I think."

Hungary. That's like. Above Europe, right? Or next to Turkey. There's a certain furrow-browed blankness derived from uncertain enthusiasm, like he's already decided it sounds nice despite lacking certain — relevant. Information. Understanding. Awareness.

His nod is less decisive than he means for it to be accordingly. Pictures would be great. Pictures are tangible.

Yeah Joseph couldn't have placed it on a map either except for vague hands at the messy centre of Europe where most of everything else seems to be, like. Luxembourg. And so any nod is seen as decisive enough, and Joseph presses a half-smile at Deckard. It all feels a little like distant dreams and flights of fancy when you're inviting someone along for the ride. There was a point when going to New York seemed like a half-baked notion, too.

"Why'd you come here?"

"Looking for God," says Deckard, quick after a pause to adjust for the change of track. Matter-of-fact. He doesn't smile, but at least he's lucid, processing speed cranked to something like normal in fine twitches of muscle under the lines scruffed in fuzzy around his mouth. "He's not here."

In case Joseph had the same notion. May as well do him the favor of saving his time in a level look and a step back into his own tracks.

The sigh is audible, short and not too woebegone, necessarily. It's the suffering of an optimist at a pessimist, even if Joseph hasn't kept up his end of the deal on that one super well in recent times.

"God's everywhere," he corrects, amends, assures, any number of things with bland warmth in his tone that is probably more emphatic on the topic than he's been for a while. It's hard, when most of your sermons are for the deaths of people who didn't deserve it, if anyone even does, but maybe he can make an effort, here. Joseph stays still and where he is, turning a look up at the broken ceiling.

"No," Deckard disagrees promptly, not leaving room even for Joseph's assertion to settle between them. He has been in times and places where there wasn't a god and Sumter has too, he knows. Or suspects.

Callous dissent isn't great for religious conversation, but Flint is confident and his breathing and posture are steady as he steps further along his sunken wall. God is not everywhere and if he is, his penetrating omnescience is not mark in his favor.

"Where can I go from Your Spirit?" This isn't a question that Joseph is posing for Deckard — he is reciting. Joseph has on his reciting voice. "Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in the depths, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me. It just don't always feel like it." That last part is probably Joseph's own addition, spoken with a little less reverence than which he address scripture.

He'd followed Deckard a step to pursue him with words, but stops again. "That's psalm 139. I think. I still got the book you gave me, that one time, you know."

"That's just — someone kissing ass." Exasperation staggers response time; Flint has to struggle to find words that won't get him hit in the mouth. The nail he's had in hand is slung stiffly aside into a black mass of unrecognizeable furniture, point failing to stick. He scuffs the same hand across his shirt, flaking away rust and debris on his way to checking his cell phone around when Joseph mentions that one time. It's time to not have this conversation, it turns out.

He puts it away slowly, no new messages, stiffly loathe to force thoughts out through the mule clamp of his teeth.

"Where was he when Cain killed Abel?" Rhetoric is left partially open as if he might be inclined to list more personal examples, but he doesn't get there, diverting instead into a tangent that strikes him as more likely. Based on his experiences.

And dubious logic.

"I think he sees it in you later."

Joseph's eyebrows pull tight together at the implication that anything in the Bible is ass-kissing, hands coming to rest on his hips — it's a far cry from any mouth hitting, but naturally it has effect in the shape of his stance, vaguely defensive. There aren't a lot of people in this city who can just reel off scripture, even if he did mix a couple of Bible iterations in there. No one ever can tell. Deckard is making some motions to leave or otherwise end the conversation, and Joseph's presence is otherwise passive, making no effort to help or hinder as he both listens and considers how to reply in a way that isn't dismissive.

"Watching," he says, after a moment. A little roughly. "Men make choices. Sometimes they're bad ones. Freedom ain't a gift if it comes with conditions to play nice, and salvation ain't learned if it ain't yours to— learn. I'd rather believe all that then just— negligence."

A beat, before he adds, "But I know what you mean."

Insistence and understanding both are absorbed in dank, damp silence, dirty water drizzling between them in feeble falls. He holds his ground, progress into an exuent paused so that he can force himself to think, the blue of his eyes branded inscrutable against surrounding shadow. More subdued than, say, the average Tom Cruise, there is still a manic, unhealthy energy twisting unkempt through the arch and set of his spine.

Restless hands.

"I want to leave," he reiterates — more confidently this time. "Call me when you have the photos."


It's the best Joseph can answer with. But then, it's not a terrible answer. In the long run. A little bleak, but final, still earnest and loud enough to carry through the crippled church. There's a faintly more echoed, "I will," to seal the promise in some way, before Joseph sort of. Gives permission to be left alone, in a way, rather than actual dismissal, turning off a fraction clockwise with a hand wandering up to itch along the chain of his pendants and locate the one of silver and glass from the blown out windows of this place. Spiritualism comes in all forms.

Unspoken permission does not actually make walking away and leaving Joseph in his broken church less awkward. Deckard lingers accordingly, unsure of how to. Go. Also unsure of what kind of terms he is leaving on. Is this an argument?

In the end he declines to clarify, striking off along the wall to brood in a place with more whiskey and fewer pastors.

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