Non-Violent Tolerance


bella_icon.gif deckard_icon.gif

Scene Title Non-Violent Tolerance
Synopsis Makes dinner for two possible in Chelsea.
Date August 19, 2010

Bella and Deckard's Apartment

There's a smell in the air. A smell that one can forget after long enough without it. Too specific for a restaurant, which even with fresh food is always a melange. It's a cooking smell of a specific dish, more intense for its singularity. Meat, roasted, with a hint of mustard and a strong smell of garlic. It's hot too, thanks to the August warmth and the heat of kitchen, plus a 'malfunctioning' air conditioning unit.

Bella is, admittedly, a little bit sweaty. She's at the epicenter of the heat, in the midst of the kitchen, hovering from place to place with the nervous flutter of someone who would is nervous about being a good cook. And she is, though she also fully disavows any sense that this is a 'feminine' anxiety. She just likes to do things well when she does thing. She'd feel the same way about fixing a car. If she had any idea how to do that.

She does have some idea how to cook, but only thanks to following the recipe to the letter. Bella is not an innovator, she doesn't have a 'touch'. But she is using quality ingredients and the whole thing looks promising. Which Bella feels quite proud about, thank you very much. And she doesn't want to fuck it up at the last moment.

The table isn't set. She's considered Deckard's likely reaction to that. She has the sense he might feel ambushed. Or led on. And either way he'd likely make fun of her, or get weird, or both.

Deckard is sweaty too. Or was — grizzled grey still spined damp around the sideburns when he slows to a wary halt outside of door number 9, where it almost seems as if the smell is strongest. Sheridan's been exercising lately and so has he, in his way — dark jacket and darker boots faded under a fine film of ashy Midtown dust that must be so many parts people.

He can't stand out there forever, though. The backpack slung up onto his shoulders weighs as much as a small safe, dead weight jutted at uneven angles so that the right side's heavier than the left when he shifts his weight and flares his nostrils and tries to think of who else lives on this floor that might be cooking. The backpack creaks. So do the floorboards under his feet.

It takes him a good ten or fifteen seconds to resolve to cheat, chilly eyes dialing bright against cobweb pallor for the glance it takes him to determine that Bella is indeed in the kitchen doing cooking-type things. He turns it off quickly. Probably a little too quickly.

Two minutes (that feel more like ten) later, he nudges his key into the lock and shoulders in, scuffing grey along the frame in his wake. The backpack bump-bumps after tell-tale to leave an even messier mark before he manages to get the door closed and drop the duffel he's also been dragging around. It makes a suspiciously leaden whud and clatter.

Funny that this is the privacy he feel he can't invade. Though maybe it's not the seeing so much as what he's seeing. Is he scared? Bella isn't intended to scare him, though maybe it does seem a little uncanny. Patrick Bateman meets Martha Stewart.

The whir of the stove fan, which does nothing much but Bella thought it was somehow 'safer' to have it on 'just in case', is insufficient to cover Deckard's arrival. Bella, thankfully, doesn't yodle something domestic out of the kitchen. She instead leans out of the doorway. She is, unfortunately, in a buttercup yellow sundress and an apron, but at least the first thing she says to him is: "Please, don't track that shit into the house. Or at least clean it up after? I'd appreciate it." Okay, so not as dictatorial as it maybe usually is. But not eerily nice either. She disappears back into the kitchen becoming, to the unaided eye, just a voice.

"Please tell me you're hungry. I am smoking you out if you aren't, because I did not do all this work for nothing."

There's still dust stirring silkily around the duffel bag's point of impact when Bella leans out — Flint standing dumb near the entry in his backpack, the bottoms of his boots probably the cleanest thing about him. He's out there gearing up to say something, no doubt. The lean catches him off guard. Well.

The lean and the sundress.

The lean and the sundress and the apron.

Jaw slacked slightly open off its hinges, he's slow to clamp it again while a series of rustles and bumps mark the pack's progress off his back and onto the floor with its mate. Thud, again. More dust and a smear of peripheral neon while he checks again (almost unnecessarily at this point) to ensure that her bones are still Bella's bones. Also to make sure that her boobs are her boobs. Possibly in an effort to ensure that he's still himself in turn.

His progress for the kitchen is deliberately slow once there's any progress at all and once he's there that's just about all he is. More like someone standing in a puzzling museum exhibit than a dude standing in a kitchen with a lady in a dress. And dinner. He doesn't answer the question about whether or not he's hungry. He's busy looking at the stove fan instead.

Is everyone's identity confirmed? Yes? Yes? Good, because dinner is served. Bella leans down and reaches out to open the oven, giving a small cry of alarm and flinching back. Too hot for bare fingers. She glances at Deckard, did he see that? Yes he saw that. He wouldn't even have to be in the room to see it. Now that he's here… no way he missed it. Oh well. "What were you up to today? I'm not just asking, I'm genuinely curious as to how you got the way you got. Though, if the story is boring, you can embellish humorously. Deadpan humorously, as is your wont."

Bella looks around for an oven mitt as she speaks, spotting it in a corner of the counter-drawer nook, snagging it and sliding it over her hand, doing the mitten 'flap flap' to make sure… of whatever you're making sure of when you do that. Making sure your hand is really in there, perhaps. Another lean, a more successful opening, and a wave of aromatics fills the air. "I made lamb," Bella states, as she crouches and tugs the tray out, revealing the truth of her words. Two legs of lamb, bones and all, "as sort of a thank you slash gratitude gesture. Just so you know why." She glances up at him. "I hope this is all right." She doesn't look particularly nervous, just mildly hopeful. It would be nice if this were alright.

Deckard did see. Seeing is one of his more highly developed talents. The one he was intelligently designed for. That he takes it in without blinking — hawkish stare as fixed at the flinch as it is when she glances back to see if he saw — may qualify as unnerving under surreal circumstances such as these. Probably under unsurreal circumstances also, to be fair.

"The Company won't let me have guns anymore," is an explanation in a way, sans effect to the cause and any easily identifiable conclusion. There are dots, though, and Bella is well-qualified to connect them, as is her wont. Then flap flap says the mitten and Deckard sharpens out've his dust-clagged haze enough to straighten up out've his Mr. Munster slouch. "I should confess now," he says at length, responsibly and more to the kitchen at large than Bella specifically — he isn't looking at her, "that I'm having some premature dissonance about the difference between a muffin and a leg of lamb." On the subject of whether or not this is alright.

"Be safe," is Bella's position on whatever Deckard was doing specifically. She fixes her gloved thumb around the edge of the dish, the contents of which are currently burbling, and carefully extracts it. She slides it rapidly onto the stovetop, wincing at the weight after the fact, shaking her hand as if it were hot, though it's not - the glove did its job. She tugs the glove free and sets it aside, turning to Deckard fingers lacing before her.

"I just now realized what a terrible double entendre that is," Bella says, sounding a little embarrassed, "but I believe I was sort of high at the time I said that. Of course, Freud would call it a hysterical slip." She opens the microwave, and reveals, as if performed a magic trick, a bowl of mashed potatoes. The microwave seemed like a good place to keep them warm, though she saran wrapped it anyways. She slides it out with a ginger hand and sets it next to the lamb

"Help me set the table?" Bella reaches up to take plates from the cupboard overhead, "As for this dinner, Freud would call it sublimation. Or maybe just displacement. But," she turns to Deckard, plates in her arms, "I'm not a Freudian. So…" she presses the dishes into his hands, "let's at least eat first?"

"We're safer now." That there are guns.

Depending on who you ask.

That was an offhand drift back to previous conversation that is suddenly a lot less interesting than more up-to-date talk and Flint's quick to dismiss deviation with a muted shake of his head. Nevermind safety. It's safe enough. …Most of them aren't loaded. Or jammed. Or dirty.

He tunes back in somewhere around the region of double entendre, pupils shuttered to his ability's whims rather than visible light's on their way to the microwave, where she has mashed potatoes. And the cupboard, where they have plates. Somehow he had x-ray vision and didn't know there were plates in there until she pulls them out with him standing at the floor's center like a mesquite post.

Not all that into Freud beyond the pop culture presumption that everything is all penises according to him, Flint is forced to nail context clues haphazardly together for an awkward beat before he reaches to take the offered flatware with dirty hands and turns to truck them obediently back for the table. The stink of sweat and dusty human desertion is kind enough to temporarily leave with him.

Well, seeing something and actually taking note of it are totally different things. Some objects are just 'somebody else's problem', and might as well be invisible, for all intents and purposes. Just photons, forming corneal impressions of no real note. If Flint had eyes in the back of his head, just normal eyes even, he'd see Bella smile as he goes off to do her bidding, more or less. She dons her oven mitt again, which she took off why? and carries the lamb out after him.

Bella's dining room table, pressed against the wall separating the kitchen from the living space, is not a grand affair. With one side of it used up by stained wallpaper and cracked plaster, there is room for three other seats, though this is one more than they need. Bella didn't seem to expect company in her old life any more than… this thing she's living right now. She tosses a rag onto the surface and sets the lamb down, her release much smoother this time, now that she knows she won't feel the heat suddenly sinking into her.

"Safer how?" Bella inquires, nothing in her tone suggesting suspicion, least of all that Deckard has brought a plethora of forbidden firearms into the house. She's smart enough to glance over at what Deckard actually brought home with him, the backpack and duffel, and as the uncertainty of their contents sinks in, she frowns. If she asked that question again, there might be just a little dash of suspicion this time around.

Clink, Deckard sets the first plate down. Clank, he sets the second one gracelessly after it, smudgy paw prints dragged across the unseen underside and across one rim. Following directions as aptly as any forklift. Except for that first one about not making a mess, maybe.

Lamb and Bella follow him out, leaving him unsure of whether or not he should sit or go find other things like forks and knives that go with plates. A few seconds of standing there later, a shower sounds nice, suddenly, and his attention span falters cloudily back in that direction despite good food and sundress both in such close proximity.

Safer how?

"…What?" says Flint half a beat later, scruffy head swiveled around on its hinge atop the obtuse slope of his shoulders and the wires bunched in his neck. "Are we eating now?"

You know what? Bella doesn't have to find out now. In fact, knowing, she fears, may ruin her appetite. And that would make her seem hysterical. Correction, histrionic. Either way, she wants to sully neither the event nor her reputation. Deckard can handle all the sullying this evening.

No, that wasn't meant to sound dirty.

"Yes," Bella answers, "but there's a little setting left to do," that eye motion of his is interpreted with more or less accuracy, "Go wash up some. I'll handle the rest." She turns back towards the kitchen, disappearing into its already cooling confines, and the sounds of tinkling glass and clattering metal suggest that she's got the whole 'cups and cutlery' thing under control. For the best, since she put almost everything that's in the kitchen were it is. Bella suspects Deckard has even stored his liquor somewhere a little closer to just-waking reach. Bedside table, perhaps? She doesn't go into his room.

There are a variety of reasons for that prohibition.


Deckard's room is occupied only in the barest of senses by his folding cot and several articles of loose clothing scattered around the floor. There are some books, a bedside crate decorated with three bottles of booze and. The revolver he drags out've its holster at the small of his back and tosses down into tatty sheets. Fresh clothing is retrieved from the cave of his closet — a white buttondown and jeans and the stuff that goes under — and he reappears long enough to drag through to the shower.

He doesn't take long. Cold showers usually aren't marathon events — as soon as he's satisfied most of the grit is gone he's toweled off, re-dressed at a damp rumple and back at the table. All in all he's gone for five minutes. Maybe ten. He has to step over the jumble of artillery-to-go he left lying around the entry on the way.

Sorry, bedside crate, not bedside table. Bella presumes too much. Deckard is not so high falutin'.

In the outside-meanwhile, Bella has completed the place settings, adding fork, knife, serving cutlery, wine glasses and water glasses to the whole shebang. There are even paper napkins that are dyed a sophisticated dark crimson so as to appear clothlike. The illusion will not survive close inspection, let alone use, but Bella figured actual cloth napkins might appear sort of psychotic. She'd think it was a weirdly intense embellishment herself, and she's okay with rituals like this. A bottle of red wine has been opened, and sits, airing minimally through its jagged-foiled opening, and next to it is a chilled bottle of San Pelligrino. There are no candles, thank God.

These preparations gave Bella only enough time to be tempted to snoop into the duffle bag, not enough to actually do it. So she's still hungry, and she sits at her chosen seat, hands clasped in her lap, waiting. She smiles and gestures towards the chair opposite her. "Shall we?"

This is weird. Somehow it's the wine and mineral water rather than the napkins that really pushes it over, so that it's the bottles rather than Bella that Deckard spends a breath's breadth sizing up before he pulls out the indicated seat for himself. And sits.

The overall effect bears a strong semblance to the one the Company's private cell had on him however many months ago. He fits but not really, lengths and angles integrated seamlessly into the setting without actually assimilating. The spectral blue of his stare stays apart, focus rooted in a dimension separate from the one he's been sat down and leashed in. A self-conscious, awkward dimension that lends him a wolfishly insecure air, like he's not sure how interested he is in playing along but he's not sure if what happens if he doesn't won't be worse, either.

After a pause he touches the butt of his fork and looks at the mineral water again.

Bella is observing Flint. If nothing else, this is a wonderful chance to see how he reacts to unexpected stimuli. This wasn't meant to be an experiment, not by any means, but this is one of those habits that die very hard, a section of her brain that refuses to shut off once it finds a reason to switch itself on. Posture, moments of pause, direction of gaze… all taken note of, though she tries to do as little with these notes as possible, and reveal the taking of them not at all.

You know, maybe it would help if she just explained what all this is about.

"I wanted to thank you for letting Joseph know about me," Bella says, "that you respected my wish, however put out I might have sounded when voicing it, not to be a secret in your life. I think that, fundamentally, it was a brave, healthy thing to do. I'm sure you have lots of ways to explain that away, but I want you to know," a slight smile, "whether you like it or not, that I acknowledge and appreciate it. A great deal.

Now, would you like some wine?"

Oh. A blink at half speed recalls Bella as the source of all this strangeness and for the first time post-shower, Flint measures her across the table from him. It's probably not the first time he's done it with suspicion since they've been living together, but it might be the first time he's done it with suspicion and a veneer of salt-sore resentment.

It's enough to get him moving though — at least in the sense that he reaches for the wine and pours himself a glass by means of a rocky yes. He would like some wine, even if he can't remember the last time he had any and cannot recall whether or not he enjoys it. What's the proof again? 20? He squints at the label before he sets it down again at the table's midsection, more in his glass than is strictly proper.

"He doesn't like you."

"I don't blame him," Bella says, taking the wine bottle after him and pouring herself a somewhat more modest glass before setting the bottle aside and reaching forward to snag herself a leg of lamb. This particular dinner even does not include table service, it would seem, that or his self-service is taken as the theme for the evening. No elaboration, by the way, on why she doesn't blame him. Because of how crassly obvious his reasons would be.

Kidnapping and experimentation, in case you forgot.

"I am all right with not being liked by your friends," Bella says, "if only because I'd be very, very stupid to expect anything else. I care pretty much exclusively about what you think of me," her eyes find his for a clearly communicative moment, "in case you didn't know," is what she wants him to hear, and then she's all about mashed potatoes, "I would like to aim for non-violent tolerance, though. Is there anyone else I should meet? Anyone non-violent?"

Eye contact at the same time as meaningful reassurance may be a mistake, seeing as the resonant lock of blue to blue magnifies the intensity of Flint's skepticism several fold past the earthy fill of his wine glass and the reach he's making past it for lamb once she's already done the same.

The disembodied leg slides onto his plate without a struggle, followed by a dollop of mashed potatoes. Followed by knife sawing through meat that he inspects the consistency of on his way to smothering it into potato and then into his mouth. Fortunately he reminded himself ahead of time to chew with it closed and is still sober enough to remember all the way until he swallows and reaches for the wine glass instead. "No."

Bella knows skeptical when she sees it. And she's seen enough of it from Deckard. It actually smarts a little more than boredom or irritation from him. He senses that he detests bullshit. Bella purses her lips, glancing down at her bloody leg, then look back up at Deckard, after consultation with the meat, "Do you not believe me when I say it, or do you believe me but still think I'm still using it like I would if I were lying?"

Wine? Good idea. Bella takes her own in hand, giving it a very slight swirl - she considers not doing it, because of what he might think, and then decides she will not let herself use him to feel ashamed, so does it anyways. And then she takes a drink. Not a small one.

She sets the glass back down, then adjusts its setting briefly before speaking again. "Will Joseph tell other people, though? Should I be concerned for my safety?"

"I think you believe yourself," Deckard gravels diplomatically (if not all that flatteringly,) brow furrowed with an alien appreciation for pinot noir he didn't know he had. Probably because he didn't have one until fairly recently. A shorter sip follows the careless depth of his first swallow and he gives his glass a mistrustful glance down and aside before setting it down further from the rest of his right hand, as he might a piece of rubbish with a spider on it. One that he wishes would ramble in a more awayward direction.

He's not so distracted that he can't shake his head at her second line of questions, bleakly honest in near careless confidence. No need to take the time or effort necessary to weigh it out one way or the other. Joseph won't tell.

"Then what do you think I feel?" Bella says, pursuing the subject with what sounds like more interest than hurt, probably - that or hurt very well disguised, or interest disguised as hurt - one could go on. "I'd like to know." She would. Either way.

Her appreciation for wine was purposeful cultivated. One of those things she felt she should have. And it worked. And it gets the job done. She takes another long sip, and then starts on her meat, making slim cuts. Probably should eat. That's what dinner's for, after all.

There's such a pause there that the only viable option he has to follow it up with is a quiet (and inevitable) "I dunno." Flint pokes his fork a little dejectedly at lamb when he says it, slow to set up another bite for himself with tension coiling scale over muscle across the span of the dining table.

"I know you don't know," Bella says, pushing some mashed potatoes onto the curve back of her fork, European style. Let's pray she didn't cultivate that for the same reasons she cultivated wine drinking. "But I want to know what you think." She lifts the fork to her mouth, inverted and bites, chews, swallows. She looks up at him. Waits.

"I think you don't want me to know." More specific emphasis gets a quicker answer for all that it's in the same half-hearted hush. Flint turns his fork in his own mashed potatoes American style. Specifically five-year-old American style. His glare fleets only briefly upward to gauge the accuracy of his hypothesis.

"If that's true, I'm fooling even myself," Bella says, and she is maybe just a little defensive. At least from the sound. Or is that tipsiness? Bella tends to smoke more than she drinks, so comparative examples do not abound. "I have no interest in hiding myself from you. You remember what you said to Joseph? That I talk to you?" She does, apparently. "You talk back occasionally. That means something to me as well."

Deckard accounts more for the possibility of self-deception than he does his own potential for inaccuracy, self-assurance along these lines oddly inverted from the norm in a tip of his brows that would be more skeptical if he wasn't back to making an effort at half-decent behavior again. Doesn't sound so far-fetched to him.

He doesn't press her, though — content in having said something. Also disinterested in picking at things that fell out of his teeth when he was suddenly forced to explain how he came to think living with his BFF's personal tormenter was a swell idea. He forks a piece of lamb into his mouth instead, and chews slowly.

They eat. For a while. Bella's drinking slows a little, and uninterrupted eating stabilizing her stomach somewhat. Time passes, and she pours herself another glass, a little smaller than her first. Consciously responsible. She's about half way through her serving when she speaks again.

"I've got something else to tell you, but I'm worried it will put you off your food. But I also don't want to give myself an excuse to not tell you, so…" Bella's finger taps against the side of her wine glass but she doesn't take it up, treating it more as a talisman, "I met a young man claiming to be your son today. He wasn't a total idiot. And not unmannered, in his way."

With a lifestyle and history such that he's learned to eat quickly when he's not intentionally eating slowly to avoid talking, Flint's nearly finished by the time Bella's second glass segues into a change of subject. It's fortunate that he is, seeing as he's paused in his dissection of wee fluffy sheep and pricked his ears warily even before she meanders to her point. That the remainder of his appetite dissolves instantly is predictable. Seriously. She just predicted it.

Fork scraped to plate as if to call unconscious attention to the fact that he's no longer keen on using either utensil for eating, he frowns after the wine he hasn't touched since he decided he liked it and sinks deeper into his chair. "How did he find you?"

"He knows you live here," Bella answers, promptly, a symptom of the guilt that does not appear in her matter of fact tone, "and I invited him in because I didn't know what you'd want me to do. He offered proof, waved a paternity test at me, but I didn't look at it. He didn't seem like he was lying, but I asked him to leave before you came back," a pause, maybe three seconds, "he gave me a joint, and I took it. I'm sorry if any of these choices were stupid ones. I was taken aback, and I didn't know how you would want me to treat him. So I tried to be honest and cordial."

Yeah but how. Irritation hardens the hood of Deckard's brow and hollows his jaw, scruff hackled into a bristle that doesn't become him when the muscles there knot thick against themselves. He screwed up, somehow. And now they are that much more unsafe to undermine all the scraping around Midtown scavenging weapons he did today.

Rather than invite further discussion of his so-far failure to well and truly hide in a still-populated portion of the city, he wrestles frustration down to a tolerable murmur and pulls a breath in slow through his sinuses. "I didn't raise him." Which is a slightly obtuse way of saying I don't care.

The issue of security never crosses Bella's mind. It's a mix of faith in Deckard and, to a likely much greater degree, sheer naiveté. Her focus is wholly on the emotional consequences, the danger to relationships. Seeing what she's trained to see, what she knows is there. Which still doesn't mean her vision is anything near perfect.

"Do you not want him as part of your life at all?" Bella asks, folding her hands before her, just under her plate, "I'm asking because if that's what you want, I'm with you on that. If he shows up again, I'll tell him to leave. He seems more than capable of taking care of himself, and making a nuisance of himself."

She's asking because if that's what he wants but Deckard's eyes go to her hands and the way they fold under her plate and fails to look convinced. He fails to look much of anything, actually — stony reticence over underlying irritation limited to the unholy blue of his stare and the stiffness in his neck.

"I don't care," tried again (less) obtusely, he flexes his grip on the fork he has and sets it deliberately down near the center of his plate. "Thanks for cooking."

"If that's not true, or changes, tell me any time," Bella says, leaving the door open on the offer of progeny banishing. Who knows, maybe she'd get a kick out of it. Getting to play curmudgeon. Flint seems to get something out of it.

"You're welcome," she replies, "thank you for eating. It was… an experiment," eh, maybe not the best choice of words considering her professional choices, but too late, "that I inflicted on you," either ignorant still, or judging it too little too late, "so I'm glad it worked out. We'll have leftovers for a little while. If the fridge doesn't turn itself off again."

The small trails of everyday life on the margins.

"Okay," says Deckard. To everything. Not just the part about his bastard son and changing his mind. The experiment and all that gets lumped in too, dumped all unwieldy into the same box of unclassifiable bullshit that he's not interested in playing back for himself on a loop.

A brief mental checklist affirms that he has done most everything correctly. Sat, ate, spoke, chewed with his mouth closed. Said thank you. Then he scrapes back his chair, scoops up his plate and his wine and disengages in the direction of the kitchen.

She watches him go. He's cleared all her obstacles, escaped the rat maze of etiquette that all this entailed. So Bella won't stop him. She'll finish her wine, clean up, and then get some reading done. Or at least she'll try to.

Hard to say how successful she'll be. So many indefinite ventures.

Wine down the sink, remnant food and ceramic plate alike into the trash. There's no running water before Flint's crossed back out to heft his dirty bags the rest of the way into his room. It's gloomily dark in there, but it usually is.

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