My Independence Seems to Vanish in the Haze


deckard_icon.gif joseph_icon.gif

Scene Title My Independence Seems to Vanish in the Haze
Synopsis In which Joseph and Deckard hold hands and I perpetuate my recent obsession with using song lyrics as titles.
Date April 16, 2009

East Harlem

East Harlem was and is still referred to as 'Spanish Harlem' or 'El Barrio'; a majority of its population is of Hispanic descent, especially originating from Puerto Rico. It also includes immigrants from around the world. East Harlem is no longer quite the low-income neighborhood it once was, due to the increase in housing prices across the board, but it remains one of the neighborhoods where making ends meet is merely difficult instead of impossible — in an economic sense.

The neighborhood is plagued by other problems. Although mostly unaffected by the explosion, the influx of refugees to East Harlem has compounded the issues present previously. Fresh foods, produce and meats alike, are scarce and expensive. Crimes of all sorts, from theft assault, are frequent; drug trafficking and use is extremely widespread.

Joseph can't quite tell if it's the weather that turns this city grey, or if it's just like that. Stretches of cement and faded brick, metal rooftops and then the damp ambiance of the sky hanging low. It hasn't rained yet, but it's been threatening to for as long as he's been out here, almost since noon, and the sun hasn't quite been able to break through the thick smoggy clouds above their heads.

He's standing on the sidewalk with a young black man, and both of them are too well dressed to be from this particular corner of the city. They speak quietly, Joseph offering out a hand and then gripping the younger man's with both, speaking earnestly until a taxicab of bright, almost offensive yellow purrs up to the side of the street. A shake of his head, no, he'll walk, thanks anyway, and a wave later, and the younger man climbs inside the vehicle and is whisked away once more, leaving the pastor behind.

Thunder doesn't have to crack to draw Joseph's attention upwards, a judgmental glance cast upwards as if to judge whether splitting the fare home would have been a good idea or not, but still, rain doesn't start falling. Another look is given to the building he'd just come out from, a condemned place with an overdue and neglected demolition notice still tacked to the doors. It was due for destruction about three months ago, but like many things in this city, it's been forgotten. There's just too much to remember, Joseph supposes, as he pulls his coat tighter around him and starts on down the road, overcoat hiding a suit, no tie today, and a messenger bag hanging from a slouched shoulder.

Across the street, someone is watching with eyes that are too blue against a veil of ambient grey so complete that there's no more room for shadow than there is for sunlight. Deckard watches the kid, the car, the building. The translucent pull of their lips away from teeth and tongues rolling vowels into soundless conversation offers little in the way of comprehension at a distance. Who knows what church people get up to in the presence of the young and potentially impoverished. It could be anything from rape to free hugs and donuts. Or all of the above. The important thing is that the pastor is here, and so is he.

He is in a suit and tie, the former grey, the latter a marginally more metallic shade of the same absence of color. Maybe that's why he blends in so well beneath the sooty hang of his overcoat. A few more business-minded gentlemen in more expensive suits cross the street while it's clear, in a hurry to get into a better position for cab hailing so they can get the hell out of this part of town. Nevermind the rain that's coming.

Thunder makes him flinch, the flinch flattens the line of his mouth and drags thickly at the bob of his throat. He sighs. Mutters to himself. There's a pair of sunglasses in his pocket. With more than an unfortunate tendency to glow to hide today, he might as well put them on while he crosses the street, slow strides measured such that he should arrive at the corner of the next block shortly before Joseph does.

Men of God are supposed to want to wander where they're needed. Joseph would second this, and his own wander down the street is almost defiantly casual and meandering, caught up in watching the buildings pass as shined shoes make a slow and rhythmic monotonous scrape on the pavement. Still, it would be nice to be home already. To selectively flip through television channels, heat up something microwavable, and, well. Study. The gate through Heaven is a narrow path.

His current path is temporarily interrupted when someone crosses the street in front of him, and Joseph spares him a glance to do the usual calculations of how slow or fast he has to go so as not to be awkward— anything but that— before recognition and a little bit of paranoia makes his even steps falter slightly in surprise, and he doesn't immediately say a name or a greeting or anything because it might be some other lanky unshaven guy at first glance.

Also Flint's wearing a suit. Joseph can't remember if this is usual.

Deckard could pass for a number of lanky, scruffy guys in a suit and sunglasses. If he bothered to shave and bring a briefcase, he'd be nearly invisible in the doom and gloom of today's weather. Unfortunately, there's recognition in the way he glances along the sidewalk at Joseph's approach. His shoulders are hunched, the down-tipped angle of his jaw hangdog. More like he's finally gotten around to dragging himself off to the dentist than over to some destitute part of town to accidentally bump into some southern baptist asshole with a retard accent.

He scuffs around the corner in a loose circle, overlarge feet winding restlessly one before the other until he looks up again to see if Joseph is running off with his hands flailing over his head or otherwise gone missing. Straight on, it's a little harder to mistake the long, narrow configuration of the older man's face.

No running and screaming, but he does stop walking briefly, hand curling around the strap of his messenger bag and looking the man up and down, and into the blank glass of his sunglasses, unable to see much past them but Lord help him if Joseph doesn't try his darndest to make eye contact. Admittedly, the featureless black is easier to look at than the bright twin circles of glowing electric blue.

"Flint," he says, and manages a smile, certainty sliding into place around the time Deckard finishes his circle around to face him. Joseph glances over his shoulder, for no real reason, before dark eyes again attempt to search out lighter ones beneath glasses. "Didn't expect t'see you so soon. Or here, even." Or ever, actually. The city, it's a big one, has a tendency to swallow people, much like those he attempted to talk to all afternoon.

The glasses absorb more than they reflect, the ghost of Joseph's outline faded indistinct even at close range. He has a particular way of shopping for them, more concerned with what they keep in than what they're capable of screening out. In this case and others they double as a convenient screen between himself and whoever happens to be talking to him, cutting off the nervous track of his glare from easy scrutiny.

Unfortunately the rest of him has more to say than he might like. "Hey." He doesn't want to be here. Doesn't want to talk about big things or small ones. Doesn't want to be studied. His head turns away a few twitchy degrees to escape Joseph's searching even when he knows he's not going to find anything. Even the way he shrugs a shoulder at the rest is awkward.

Hard to know what to do with someone whose demeanor projects the desire to cut a cartoon hole in the air and disappear through it. It at least affords Deckard a glance away, down specifically. Scrutiny dying because either the man is too hard to read, or he's read enough for the time being. Joseph is starting to walk again. Presumably not away, coming closer and angling slightly as if to go around Deckard, no hugs on the horizon. Then, a head tilt, an invitation to walk and talk, the latter being optional even if he does ask, "How're you doing? Still workin' at the Lighthouse?"

His own demeanor isn't reinventing the wheel for him, expression open, voice curious and conversational, and maybe less guarded than he had been in other times. In the darkness of an after hours church, when he'd delivered himself a bruise in trying to jump away from the other man in a direct contradiction of the rule no sudden movements, but maybe out here it's not so bad. The sun is mostly out, it's a public sidewalk, even if it is in this end of town. Fruit loops, too, had been present at their last meeting.

Deckard is less intimidating in the light, however grey. He's worn out and wiry, exposed for the rickety assembly of scrap that he is these days without the claustrophobic uncertainty of his tall and firy-eyed presence in the dark. It takes him a few seconds to read the head tilt as an invitation, but he does eventually manage a hustled, slinking pair of steps to rematch the pastor's pace when he asks after the state of things. "Okay," is the inevitable answer, about as telling as the bleak sit of his glasses over the bridge of his nose.

Of less conversational help than he was last time, he manages to cover the second question in a distant nod. Yeah, he's still working there. Workin. Working. A twitchy scratch at the side of his nose scuffs into a more audible one at the underside of his jaw. Thunder rolls thick under the cloud cover wrinkled soft overhead.

Joseph knows better— slightly— than to optimistic at Flint about how they're sure to run into each other, in that case. :D. He just pigeon-nods once in silent approval, and the growl of distant traffic and the impatient weather up above fills in what silence lands between them, temporary as it might be. "Seems like it might be rewarding," he suggests, feeling a bit like he's talking more at the ozone-scented atmosphere than the man walking beside him, but he perseveres all the same. "You didn't strike me as the type. It was nice to see."

Half a step back, Deckard keeps his head down and his eyes elsewhere, loose skin bunched around the base of his jaw to further furrow the hard line of his private scowl. He's listening mostly by necessity of nearness — absorbing Joseph's optimism against his will despite the fact that it's his will that's forcing him to keep pace. "Somewhere to sleep. Food to eat." It's all very cut and dried, really. The basic things are the most important. He can work his way up the rest of the hierarchy later. After he works out why he's swallowing so much. The air is thick and humid despite the cold. It catches at his chest and forces a shudder to sift through the puff of his breath.

"There's a lot of places to sleep," Joseph says, gentle argument in defense of whatever good he hopes is inside the man, with a glance back towards Flint. A flick of a glance up and down acts as a quick scan of the more overt signs of body language, before dark eyes are set ahead of him again. "And a lot of food in the world. I guess you got a point, though," he concedes, another look up at the tall buildings they wander by. Broken windows. Graffiti that should be colourful but in the hazy lighting of impending rain, the colour seems to drain out of it. His hands come up to turn up the collar of his coat, to block the chill in the air and he ducks his chin a little. "Lot of people won't have those things come nightfall."

"Where there's a will," there's a probably way to support yourself killing people and cutting pieces out of them for money on the side. For all that he met Joseph breaking into his church to escape the rain and try to sleep, there is a stark absence of sympathy about him for the plight of everyone else less driven or more moral. Whatever might have threatened to crack through his exterior is fading fast. His shoulders hunch further, muscle and bone crowding the stoop of his ears. "I can't get a real job. There won't even be a trial if they catch me again."

There's a slight beat of a pause, Joseph's eyes narrowing in thought at these words, drawing up a strain of conversation from not so overly long ago. "Is this to do with breaking all the commandments except for the one with the golden cow?" he asks, a certain wryness in his voice that suggests he believes exaggeration is afoot. Or hopes there is.

The walking ceases for a moment, shoe scraping against the pavement as he turns enough to look at Deckard, as if maybe the answers might visually reveal themselves to him. "I dunno what you've done, and it's not my business. I'll leave that between you and God, and I guess the law. But if you keep thinkin' that the future's gonna hold nothing for you— can't have a real job, and whatever other can'ts there are— then you're just gonna be a walkin' talkin' self-fulfilling prophecy," and around those last couple of words, Joseph continues to walk, trusting Flint to continue as well.

Jaw sinking hollow ahead of a clench at the mention of cows, Deckard draws himself up when Joseph stops, suddenly critically aware of his own shrinking withdrawal. Anger hardens into his face more plainly than most emotions, finding familiar footholds in the flat sink of this line or that while he stares the bible banger down. It's not entirely intentional. He's still standing at an angle, shoulders refusing to square, spine not quite straight for all its rigid bristle.

"If life is a test, I've already failed." Seriously, at this rate it's going to take him a fucking millennia's worth of foot baths to get in any better with Jesus than he is with the law. "There is no upswing. There's nowhere to go but straight ahead or further down, and — " Joseph is walking away, so Deckard raises his voice after him, "what the fuck am I supposed to do? You don't fucking know! Philosophical bullshit doesn't help me."

It's hard to smile breezily over everything, and Joseph is no exception even if he's more talented at it than most. When Deckard chooses to stand his dubious ground and raise his voice, it catches the pastor off-guard, some. Enough to make him stop after a few feet have yawned between them, turn to look at Flint, consternation written on his face before he faces him properly.

"Well— " he starts, haltingly, verging on flustered before asking, voice also raising, "Why not?" Hands raise, an imploring, shrugging gesture. "It can help. It helped me." And those hands turn outward, showing Deckard his palms as if to say 'okay okay okay… okay'.

Okay. "I get it, it's— not real until it's real. Somethin' you can hold onto, see. Faith's a test too. Look— " He takes a few steps forward, the wind kicking up enough to make his coat flap, no longer trapped by folded arms. "I don't know. None of us do, only God does, but— you can. Know, I mean, about what you're supposed to do. At least you can get a clue, if you need it." Expressive eyebrows still knit into that troubled expression, hands kept to himself, fingers curled inwards. It's a simple question, really, but simple answers don't come cheap. Complicated ones do.

There really isn't much recognition for the effort Joseph's making. Deckard is closed, frustration locked into the jut of his coarse jaw and the slow drag and push of his breath at poking ribs and stiff shoulders. It's going to take more than raised hands to mollify him, though he does at least stop with the conspicuously loud accusation when the other man turns to face him.

Back to glaring again instead, the sunglasses working against him this time. None of intensity in his eyes manages to filter through.

"There are reasons. Do you really trust me so much that you haven't done your research?" Skepticism and his own prickling distrust bitten off at a near snarl, he takes the rest in with a wary turn of his head. This is different from his usual distaste for religion. More like a starving mutt having food thrown at it that smells suspiciously like poison. "Different circumstances. Crappy odds. I know what you do." It might be accusatory if Joseph's ability were less of a secret. Instead it comes across as a curt cut off before he can watercolor up some retarded pitch to sell it as hope from a man who knows better. The shamwow of being saved. He clearly has no intention of becoming another notch on Joseph's Southern Baptism bedpost. "You realize there's a pretty good chance that I'm right. Things are going to get worse. In which case I hope you won't hold it against me if I choose to stop while I'm ahead."

Dark eyes narrow, unshielded by sunglasses and other inhibitions and so therefore much more readable than the blank screen of sunglasses. Confusion, about research, as if it never did occur to him to pry. It wouldn't have been hard. Ask Brian for a full name, maybe even details, type it into a computer. Nine commandments, except for the one about the golden cow.

Untouched, for now. Irrelevant, out here. Joseph almost smiles when Deckard, indeed, cuts his sales pitch short, but it's not the warm and hopeful smile as usual, just wry amusement that he's quick to suppress. Flint has enough prickliness about him that the pastor doesn't need to contribute, although the earnest pleading, or whatever it is, does drain out of him some. He simply agrees with, "It's your vision." First real asshole move, not to tap into Deckard's standards of what makes up an asshole: not telling him that there really are no take backsies once a vision starts.

Not really caring about their surroundings too much, Joseph offers out his hands, somehow work-roughened from a man who has such a gentle job, wedding ring ever present. "Here's to the light at the end of a tunnel not being a train. Do you mind if I pray, first?"

"It's your breath." That he'll be wasting, that is. Deckard simultaneously plays the asshole game better than most and fails to suspect that the goofily religious dillhole in front of him is setting him up for a fall, frown downturned upon the wedding ring banded solid around a blocky length of bone. Both hands. Does he have to hold them both? For the first time he actually glances across the street to see if anyone is paying more attention than they should be. This is going to look pretty gay.

When he finally lifts his right hand, he keeps long fingers curled in as if wary of being burned, vampire style. Calloused padding is stained with ink in some places and with something more yellow in others. Metal and cigarettes. A pair of cuts are still in the process of healing across his knuckles. Some kind of gardening incident there, no doubt. Meanwhile the first of a few fat raindrops smacks to its flat death against the pavement.

No prayer, no fervent handholding. Then again, they are on a city street, and it's going to start raining. Joseph's hands gravitate to the one offered by Flint, one clasping around his in a comradely (sure, go with that) clasp, the other secure around his wrist. As if perhaps holding him up might be a good idea, or at least, some form of grounding. A raindrop falls almost loudly on Joseph's shoulder. "You might want to close your eyes."

The hazy grey of the city street dissolves into blackness, Deckard rendered blind, and the distant sounds of traffic fade out too. Blind and deaf for long seconds, and all Deckard's connection to the real world is summed up in the tight clasp of Joseph's hands.

In oppressive blackness, it's easy to see when the barest hint of anything. Streaks of light, blurred, hover somewhere in a distance that's hard to discern, before it comes sharply into focus. There's a clang of metal, an echo, a whisper of chain. Black metal bars rest evenly apart from each other, the light of some unclear reality beyond it streaming on through into the pitch black infinite room Deckard finds himself trapped in. His own hands come into view, grip around the cold metal. No use rattling his cage.

Another set of hands come out of the hazy light from the other side, and wrap around the bars just above Deckard's fists. There's a feeling of rotation, an unstoppable swinging force that Deckard, the barred door, and the other man on the other side are gripped by until the hazy light warms Deckard's back and he's looking into the solid shadow he'd once been in. An exchange, a flip, and the world shifts to skeletons for a moment, making the black bars go white under Deckard's unique vision, banishing back shadows and revealing the bones beneath the flesh of the now entrapped other man.

Teo Laudani's skeleton grins back at him in the way skeletons do.

The bars are wrenched from Deckard's grip, and he is ragdoll dragged back, back away from the barred door set into a white wall, until it's a minuscule pinprick in the distance, until there's no distance at all. A white room. Clinical. Bright lights. No door.

A tray of what would be surgical tools, but aren't. A cleaver, a switch blade, a pair of shears, and one solitary scalpel, all of them bloodied and spattered with gore. And in the middle, one clean straight razor lying in the center, and this, Deckard, or this entity of himself he's forced to ride along with, picks up and inspects. He's dragging it along his arm, now, deep enough to be suicidal, but there's no pain. Only damage. There's a faint hiss sound as skin splits apart beneath the blade. Bright red, however, does not bubble and seep out from the wound. Instead, as he turns his arm to let liquid drip, it's a clear fluid, and it stings somewhat. Poison. Spirits. It drains free until there's only a thin trickle of the substance left to pool at his feet onto tile.

A woman's hand clasps his arm, a familiar warm glow, and the self-inflicted slash closes like a zipper between slim fingers. Her hair is blonde here, not red, and she withdraws her hand with a twist of a smile.

The sudden slamming back of reality is jarring, noisy and detailed as the vision comes to an abrupt close, like a book folding shut.

The last thing Deckard is aware of is discomfort at the touch. Too much touching. The tendons in his hand resist the clasp of Joseph's around them, bony wrist wrought iron against more restriction than feels necessary. There's a suspicious narrowing of his eyes at the warning, not actually a close, and then nothing.


Straight off, he tries to balk, hand clawed closed around Joseph's in bloodless panic when nothing seems to work. Eyes, ears, legs. Neither fight or flight is an option. Then the nothing sharpens into something tangible. Tension is retained only for as long as it takes him to get his bearings — or at least until he becomes intrigued enough to try. A few seconds, maybe. The prison feels too familiar to inspire fear, and everything else falls into place, falls into place, falls into place. His eyes move themselves over Teo's grinning skull, his hands know what they're doing and why.

Outwardly he's very still save for the drag and tousle of the wind at greying hair and dark coat. No collapse seems imminent. Save for the occasional twitch of a brow, his long face is oddly passive in its distraction. Perhaps weirdest of all, there's no sudden snap of movement when the vision falls away. He breathes in, swallows, breathes out. Distraction persists, and for a moment he fails to acknowledge that Joseph is still standing there holding onto him.

He has a certain responsibility for those who fall under, and at the initial sign of panic from the man, Joseph knows some guilt for not preparing him better. That was petty. His jaw clenches and he keeps a firm grip on Deckard's hand, no matter how much the older man dislikes it, it doesn't really matter when you're busy seeing God's will in a collection of symbols, flashes of light, ideas.

Often he tries to imagine what its like. Joseph would like to think the visions are beautiful, but knows better than that. Still, what can be more splendid, than seeing a message from the Lord?

Rain patters down a little harder, a little more frequently, drawing down atmospheric coldness from the sky and down to earth. Joseph looks up at the sky, fleetingly, and fails also to acknowledge as to when the vision has passed, but when he goes back to studying the man's face, there's cue enough there that has his strong grip loosening from Flint's, experimentally, but doesn't quite let go, just in case. It's worse when people get lost. "Flint?" he asks, gently.

"What?" It's a normal response, even-toned and pitched to match the inquiry rather than crosstalking loudly over it or muttering beneath it. Therefore entirely abnormal for him. He is present, though. Enough that the slack of Joseph's grip draws his attention down to where he'd forgotten he was holding on and his hand falls back towards his side.

No questions, exclamations, or accusations. He too looks up when an icy drop thumps solid against the back of his neck. Another drives into the coat at his shoulder. "Has Abigail already found you?" It's a strange question to ask out of the quiet he's erected around himself. Still oddly human in tone. Odd in a way where some might consider it an improvement but it doesn't really seem right about his person.

It's certainly a change of pace as far as what Joseph knows of the other man, enough to make the pastor hesitate. Hands withdrawn when Deckard did so, he pulls his coat back around him, adjusts the messenger bag and lets said hands wrap around the strap for something to hold onto. Hesitation doesn't last too long, eventually deciding that it is an improvement, and he rocks back a step to allow for a normal conversational distance to fall between them as rain does the same.

The question, too. That's unusual, dark eyes blinking before eventually, a nod follows. "Abigail?" How many can there be? Probably several, but— "Yeah, she's found me. The church." He's still waiting for an 'I told you so', if the distracted hesitation in his voice is to be of any indication.

Deckard nods. He doesn't seem surprised. Then again, he doesn't seem very much of anything right now, save perhaps lost on another planet and only peripherally interested in having this conversation. His mouth slacks open as if to ask a question, fuzzy lines loose for the second or two it takes him to mull over his wording. Said mulling turns out to be a waste of time, because he doesn't ask whatever it was. It's raining. He's getting wet.

"I should get back." To the island, or the kids, or to splitting wigs. Actually, a brothel suddenly seems like a really great idea. The thunder overhead is lazy and muffled, too distant to pose much of a threat despite the rain.

He learned a while ago, not to ask what people saw. They'll tell him, or they won't, but it's about beliefs. The Baptist church doesn't have confession for a reason, the idea being that there is no middleman between a person and God. You confess directly to heaven if that's what you have to do, only turning to the pastor for advice. Joseph imagines it goes the other way, too. Something so deeply personal, shielded from his eyes for a reason, isn't his business unless they want it to be. Another step back is taken, a slight wince as rain patters down all the more, the hiss of rain against nearby rooftops contributing to the audible ambiance of the place.

"Alright," Joseph allows, with a tight, slightly rueful smile. "If you see her before I do, tell her 'hi'." Probably as unlikely as getting a thank you of some description would be, as far as the pastor is concerned, and it's for that reason he only lifts his hand in a quick, finger spread wave— "take care, Flint"— before turning with the intention to leave the other man alone with his thoughts and prophecy.

"Not likely." Back to a mutter there, finally, Deckard lifts his brows after whatever unelaborated personal drama is going on there and takes a step back of his own. He doesn't say 'thank you.' He's not that out of it.

Overcoat collar flipped up to shield the back of his neck against rain that's too cold to feel like anything other than ice skimming down to the small of his back, he turns to head in the opposite direction. No thank you, and no wave. No take care either. Too much to think about. Also, too much to not think about. In the mean time he'll do math. Namely, the amount of cash in his wallet divided by hours.

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