Not So Self Assured


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Scene Title Not So Self Assured
Synopsis Now I find I've changed my mind and opened up the doors. Deckard swings by Guiding Light again. The door is open, Joseph is waiting. After some awkward conversation about life, the universe and how Deckard screws up everything, they aren't really friends but they kind of increasingly are whether they like it or not.
Date May 17, 2009

Guiding Light Baptist Church

There is no mistaking this building as anything but a church, with its arching glass windows and concrete cross fixed to the edge of the pointed roof. Curving stone steps lead up from the pavement to a set of black double doors, often kept closed during the colder weather, but unlocked during the allocated hours written on a blue sign fix to the brick wall. In white, formal letting, it reads GUIDING LIGHT BAPTIST CHURCH and lists its hours of worship.

Through the doors, you first step into an open, nondescript foyer, with access to an unobtrusive staircase headed upwards, and a second hallway leading off somewhere less public also. Mainly, this room opens straight out to the much more spacious worship hall, with immovable rows and rows of pews. A small church, it only seats an absolute maximum of around one hundred and fifty people at a time. It has a high ceiling and is warmly lit, simple and reverent in design, colours light and earthy. The stage before the pews is wide open, with seats off to the side for other pastors and guest speakers, and there is a podium placed off center. On the other side, there is a small organ with music sheets kept nearby.

It's Sunday this place sees the most action, but not for some hours now. The sun's gone down and the doors have closed to the masses, although, not so rarely anymore, the handles are loose to those who try them. Either someone was neglectful of locking the Guiding Light down for the evening, or it's not as empty as it should be.

And it isn't. Joseph's shoulders are rounded from here he rests his arms against the pew in front of him, a book held loose in his hands, and it's been some time since it's been light enough to see. He'll head for the kitchen, head for his office, or better yet, head home, to continue his reading, but sometimes there is the compulsion to be here. The angles of moonlight and the ambiance of the artificial ambiance outside makes this place look a little less plain than it is typical for a Baptist church. Something to be said about the ambiance more elaborate chapels and cathedrals can generate, but it's not in the symbols that Joseph found his faith.

Other things. Words. Relief. Guilt. That stuff. Alicia is a small hill of black further amongst his legs amongst the pews, which are set awkwardly to allow for her. It's become a ritual - vacate the church to walk the dog, bring her here, stay put for however long, too long. He's long since lost the tie and jacket, but his shirt is still tucked into slacks with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. He doesn't look at the watch strapped around his wrist but rather that shadow of the cross on the far wall.

Sunday is a dangerous day to try the whole church thing. Even moreso when any complications that arise could cut into the well-being of the skinny, beat-up kid he's supposed to be keeping an eye on. But he can't talk to Niles and he can't talk to himself in front of Niles and he can't talk to his sister. How many words would it take her to pick up on cloying instability cobwebbed throughout his thought process?

He can't talk to Abby. He already tried. Bad idea. That Joseph is one slot higher up on the list than Teo is kind of like a compliment. At least in the sense that it isn't really an insult either.

Metal scuffs muffled over metal at the church's rear, one door handle turning with a lack of resistance that knits Deckard's brow. Maybe someone knew he was coming. Maybe there are cops. Maybe someone forgot or died of a heart attack or maybe there's a perfectly reasonable explanation for it. He has to steel himself before he can fully pretend to accept the possibility of that conclusion. But soon enough, there's another body in the Guiding Light, tall and lean with hungry, searching eyes that stand out too stark against glancing moonlight and soft shadow.

Around the time the door opens with only a whisper of hinges grinding together, Alicia lifts her large head. He's determined a while ago that she is mostly made up of furry and muscle beneath that, so when she tenses, he can practically feel it, where she's parked partway beneath the pew and between his ankles. Any second now, she's going to clumsily get to her furry-mop feet and possibly tip him and the bolted down pew over in the process, so Joseph sshh's her and lowers a hand, bracing it against where he can feel her shoulder blades jut beneath her skin, searching up to grip her collar just in case. She gives a huff of a breath and settles, listing to the side in a lean against his leg.

Good giant puppy. Meanwhile, Joseph's heart has leapt, in that guilty way of being caught in some sense induces, irrational as it is sudden. He'd kept the door unlocked with the intent to head home soon, rather than to let people wander in, but really— all things considered he has no right to be surprised.

His book is set down next to him and now pointless glasses are pulled off his face as Joseph twists around enough to look over at Deckard's lanky shadow. Looks him up and down and towards the door and offers a smile as wry as it is genuine. "Come in," is the invitation with an accompanying head tilt, and even a fine tooth comb would have a hard time detecting sarcasm or taunt in his tone.

Hello, skeleton of Joseph. Hello, skeleton of Joseph's massive and disproportionately intimidating fanged beast. Despite the invitation to proceed, Deckard lingers after the trio of steps that take him to the rear of the last pew. Some people like dogs. They are probably people who don't have to worry about being saturated with the stink of criminal mischief.

A quick scan aside and then up is enough to determine that they're alone save for the presence of a few skittering shapes moving in the church's aging walls. A more direct prickle of blue to brown confirms that the dog is less interested in tearing his throat out than it could be, and with some ongoing unease, he keeps moving.

Row after empty row in a church lit by moonlight and pollution makes for an atmosphere ghastly enough that he might appreciate it if he bothered to look. As things are, he and his glowing eyes fit in fine amidst pale shafts of blue light, all the way to the pew just behind Joseph's. There he's harder to stare at, and once he's taken a creaking seat, he still has at least one big piece of solid wood between him and Alica's crushing jaws.

There's a silence once he's settled, terminated before too long by a sinking sigh. "Has he said anything back, yet?"

Crushing jaws are resting back down on the scuffed wood of the church floor, laziness bone-deep enough that she doesn't try to get at the stranger whether for crushing reasons or for seeking out pettings. Joseph, at least, is attentive, giving her one last ear skritch before resting a forearm against the back of the pew in front of him, enough that he can give, what must look to Deckard, an empty socket glance now and then.

In contrast, Deckard's eyes are two points of light Joseph remembers the most about the man. This church has so far seen its fair amount of monsters, anyway, for a church. A murderer— no, two murderers, if Joseph was going to be fair. Two murderers, an evil twin, Deckard and his demon eyes.

Maybe more, ones that Joseph doesn't know about. He's always a little slow on that particular uptake. His head tilts, before he looks towards the pulpit, all deep shadows towards its corners and one high up window offering very little light, only a slice of sky from this angle. "Mm," is Joseph's noncommittal answer, fingertips tapping against his current arm rest. "I left a message."

"Too bad." Deckard's voice is quiet, smothered soft (if not particularly reverent) beneath the oppressive open span overhead. More open to him than Joseph without benefit of shadow to pool in the emptiness. "With an inbox like his he probably just deletes them."

Every minute, flickering adjustment of his unholy glare is painted in bold strokes by the light that burns behind his eyes. His evasion of contact even with empty sockets is all the more blatant accordingly. Beyond that, he's healthy but unkempt. Still eating well and not sleeping enough. Still averse to shaving. And combs. And sobriety.

"Nice dog."

It's something to say, and breaks the silence that had begun to sag in again semi-effectively. It also bears a band of accusation that does not require a comb to sieve out of raspy exhaustion.

Joseph glances down to where he can only partially see said dog, dark fur lending itself to camouflage where the cold half-light can't quite work its way into, between the benches. She's quiet save for the sound of heavy breathing squeezed through her long muzzle - getting some rest, unlike some people. There's a moment of hesitation, considering the fact that the dog is mostly hidden where she's curled up and Deckard's sitting down a row back, but ultimately he says, dry humour in his voice, "Thanks. She's the new guard dog, except I think the most she's capable of defendin' us from are people with allergies."

He settles back against the pew, not bothering so much to try and make eye contact with Deckard, the man's elusive and haunting gaze not the easiest thing to catch, or want to. "Only bring her here so she doesn't get lonely." A beat, and then, "You seem well."

"You seem melancholy, introspective and alone," is Deckard's somewhat socially inappropriate response. Potentially merely socially inept, but there's a deliberate, punctual pressure behind each syllable that hints distinctly at intentional assholery despite a definite lack of malicious energy in the casual set of his shoulders.

Another chilly look skims down after the dog he shouldn't be able to see. The curved teeth in her grinning skull look capable enough of ripping raggedy pieces of flesh out of people she doesn't care for, allergic or not. Not that cats are better with their squashed little needle-fang faces, alien eyes like empty saucers dished black out of their cwute widdle faces. Hopefully someone is feeding his cat, come to think of it. Maybe he should call and check. His expression goes lax, briefly distant with retarded worry.

That gets a jerk of a glance over his shoulder, before Joseph is blinking out across the empty church again. Fingertips absently worrying at and fidgeting with the rolled sleeve of his shirt, the ensuing amount of quiet indicates that even if Deckard didn't find the correct buttons to press, necessarily, he's not wrong. Alicia snorts once in her dozing, simultaneously unimpressed with them as well as oblivious.

"Well, now I'm melancholy and introspective, with company," he states once he comes to the realisation that there's little reason to sit within a dark church after hours for any other reason except for— "I like it here. Just tryin' to remember exactly…" And he trails off, without elaborating exactly what, mouth drawing into a line. Maybe 'alone' had its merits; everything sounds stupider when it's spoken out loud. So he steers the conversation around as if doing so were as effortless as twisting a steering wheel. "That what you came here for? To be, I mean?" It's not really an offer to relinquish the space for Deckard's brooding, tone only curious and prodding. As if to find the real one.

Deckard's head turns slowly in acknowledgement of the trail off, beckoning elaboration in his own static silence until it's broken again by Joseph's voice. "I came here because I assumed you would be here." While the pastor's head is turned away, the older sinner risks a more intent look through the back of Sumter's skull, hollows and vacancy played out in relief past the translucent pulse of his brain.

And here you are. One of those observations that doesn't actually need to be made.

Meanwhile he seems capable of being flatly ignorant of other unspoken certainties, such as the one where it isn't appropriate to smoke in a church. A cigarette dusts soft and dry between his fingers from the confines of his own, followed up with the sharper clank and clack of the flip lighter already at his mouth.

Joseph's brow goes into a furrow at that answer, around the time the distinctive flick of a lighter scrapes its sound through the quietness. Deckard can only willingly interpret disapproval from the hollow skull sockets look he gets, but it's there, if not actually voiced. Which it should be, but the doors are also meant to be locked, so what can you do? There's some silence, long enough for the air to taint with the harsher scent of cigarette smoke that makes the lines at Joseph's eyes deepen some with a faint wince, before he's turning his head away again.

Assumed he would be here. The hand on the pew back in front of him finds ridges in the wood to absently work his fingernails through, thoughtful fidgeting. "I was thinkin' about how much good there is in what I do. I don't mean here," he's hasty to clarify, with a head tilt to indicate the wider church. "The visions. Don't know why I have it if it wasn't somethin' that should be, but… you know. Did it help?"

A nod to Deckard, curiosity on his face that doesn't translate to the immovable nature of bones. "Whatever it was that I showed you."

Hoarse-breathed quiet fills in where an answer would be prudent, the scrape of oxygen and nicotine and tar through dust-haggard lungs evidence enough that he hasn't simply vanished off of his pew. The penetrating, bitter stink of his cigarette is further confirmation of his ongoing existence there, white smoke catching weak at the blue-white rings of his eyes.

"I dunno." There's dejected honesty in his quiet answer when it finally comes, teeth flashed into a slight slash of a grimace ahead of the discomfited hollow of his jaw. "I've been trying." To be better. His bony hands fidget between the wide angle of his knees, scruffy chin dipped nearly to his chest. Lacy smoke drags tenuously after the uneasy movement, starting point pinned to a point of coal orange at the corner of his mouth. "I screw it up. Every time. I dunno what I'm doing." He doesn't sound particularly depressed. Vacant, distant, tired. Maybe a little ashamed.

"I broke a girl's arm yesterday." For example. His eyes stand out bright in the shadows cast deep by the low hood of his brow, out of place in their animalistic absence of depth. Misery is far more distinct in the fuzzy lines around his mouth.

"You— oh." It's a struggle so as not to, maybe, ask whether this is in direct correlation with the vision he gave Deckard, but it seems ludicrously unlikely and so he keeps that little worry in check and only written in the angles of his expression that no one is here to see.

Joseph's hands withdraw from where he'd rested them on the pew, hands linking together between his knees as he settles back in his seat. "It'll— heal." That brand of callousness doesn't fit on the pastor, words coming out stilted, hopeful, before a rueful breath of a chuckle releases some unknown tension. "As long as you're tryin', I think. I mean, if it was easy, you wouldn' be here, y'know? None of us would be. Mistakes are— least you know they're mistakes. That's somethin'." It sure is.

It'll heal. Of all the reassurances. Exasperated good humor manages to rasp out from some improbable space locked in deep behind Deckard's sternum. As far as laughs go, this one sounds more like a cough, but. He smiles so rarely lately it's probably best to capitalize on whatever earnest amusement there is to get. The cigarette is tugged aside so that it doesn't fall out of his mouth and set the place on fire.

"Jaywalking is a mistake. If she hadn't dosed me I probably would have tried to drown her." Kind of like the weight of his words dragging thickly down at Joseph's sense of optimism right now. "I tried to talk to Abigail. Her dad was there."

Kind of like a tug of war, between optimism and what counts as realism for someone like Flint Deckard. Sometimes it's a mystery as to whether he tugs because Joseph's end will remain sturdy, unshakable, or does so to see if it breaks. Or maybe nothing, maybe it's not always a test, or a conscious one. Joseph isn't sure but he's been taught to view such things as tests.

It's just. You know. It's late, and he's tired. Joseph raises an eyebrow at this equation of Deckard, Abigail and the senior Beauchamp, and there's a careful blank silence as this is processed. "Oh?" he asks, tone innocuous, keeping his eyes mostly forward. His hand goes to seek out Alicia, as if to check that she's still there and/or alive, combing his fingers through the long fur behind her ears. "How'd that— You and Abigail, you aren't— you know."

He's already mentally back pedaling, indicated by a quick glance and the pursuing of, "She was in your vision, right? You think she could help you."

"I was drunk. I didn't know he was there." IE: use your imagination sans the usual unicorns and leprechauns and that's approximately how it went. The lingering edge of Deckard's grin fades back into charred resignation just in time to deliver an excessively level and flat, "No." No, they aren't. The cigarette finds its way back into his mouth, acrid smoke furled blandly at the back of Joseph's backpeddling shoulders.

Contaminated air eases off a notch or two when he leans back, old wood creaking out cantankerous protest until he's resettled his shoulders against it. Silence pools in the space between them. No. Annoyance twitches hard at the join of bridge and brow. He didn't mean to come here to talk about — that. In fact it would be great if he didn't have to talk about it ever. Meanwhile, his brooding quiet says plenty.

"I don't know." Not 100% the truth. He suspects, at least, if the shadows around his face are any indication. He wants to suspect. "I punched a wall."

So presumably. Abigail, her father and Flint didn't sit down with tea and speak politely of swine flu and other current events. I was drunk. Joseph's brow creases in something like sympathy that can't be seen not with Deckard's chosen mode of vision, or their angles, his back turned to bear the brunt of cigarette smoke and scowling.

At the noncommittal answer, Joseph is quick to respond with optimism that would hopefully shine brighter than the efforts of moonlight and street lamps. "She will," he says, with a certainty he doesn't entirely have a right to, but if there's anyone in the world who might selflessly help out even the most hopeless of wall-punching cases… "Sometimes— from what I've been told, the why's and the how's in the visions are what's unclear, but gut instinct about what it means— 's something you can trust."

Joseph lifts his hand back off the back of Alicia's neck, shifts enough to turn back towards Deckard, hooking an arm over the back of the pew. "Did it— " The cigarette smoke is thicker at this angle, sentence hitching over a cough Joseph attempts to keep polite, followed by a more pointed clearing of his throat. "Did it help?" Head tilt. "The wall that might not've had it comin'."

"I punched a wall so that I would have an excuse to talk to her," Deckard clarifies, chill eyes ringed alert against Joseph's turn. The cough is noted. So is the throat clearing. His fingers twitch; a little tuft of hot ash tips deliberately off the end of his smoke and tumbles to scatter across the floor. "Why? Is that weird?" Between moonlight's stark play across his long face and souless, unblinking eyes, it's hard to tell if it's a serious question. There's a muddled line across the bridge of his nose, another between his brows. Could go either way.

"You weren't in the vision."

The observation is made on a weighty but brief pause on the end of that last question — probably too brief to allow for an answer to fit in edgewise. Particularly if he doesn't have one ready and waiting to fire off. Some of the rigid angles about his jaw ease off a touch, bits of bristle standing out silver and white in the black. "What do you think that means?"

So in a way the answer is yes, it helped. Just not in the way the preacher meant. A wince writes itself over Joseph's face at the thought and he doesn't confirm its weirdness, hand twitching in some aborted gesture that he been designed to ask, what do you think? His gaze goes down to follow where the orange embers had disappeared down into shadow, where they'd blinked out into nothing, before looking back up to Deckard's neon blue gaze.

"Nothing," Joseph answers, after a moment, uncertainty audible. Guarded, in a sense - how many visions ever have him in them? "Maybe. I don't know. There's a lot of future, it can't— all sort've appear to you in two minutes flat."

"Teo was there." In the vision. As if the addition of one more name to what's sounding to be a pretty exclusive list is an effective support of the idea that there was room in those two minutes for Joseph to fit if he was supposed to. Then again…he only has so many friends. Speculative in the slant of one eye, Deckard finds it in himself not to exhale his next stream of smoke directly into the pastor's eyebrows. I mean. Face.

Like a filament cooling at the center of a long-lit bulb, vibrant color sinks out of the rangy crook's eyes. Back to monkeyvision. All the better to register the amplifying effect cool light and steep shadows have across muscle and skin and hair and creases. It takes him a second or two to refocus past the orange fizzle of his cigarette, but not much more than that. "You three are the only people I talk to. Maybe I don't think we're friends."

The way Flint's eyes fade into something less sinister draws Joseph's own eyes, which narrow a little as if it were suddenly hard to make eye contact without those little circles of lit up guidance, shadow pooling in black contrast to the vibrant blue. In the same two seconds it takes for Flint to adjust, Joseph is able to catch where the man's irises have disappeared to. There all along, enough to catch the sparse light. Joseph's own are too dark even for that.

Disconcerting but not as much as demon-eyes. And not enough so much that Deckard's prodding words don't find a mark, Joseph letting out a soft snort in something like 'hurt amusement', if it exists.

Not to be deterred, he raises an eyebrow. "It's a vision, not a list," he mutters. "Did you see Brian too?" He glances passed Deckard, towards where he can just see the closed doors, still unlocked. His hand clasps the back of pew absently, wedding ring a dull gold instead of the bright metallic white of x-ray. "Or maybe I'm not the one to help you. Somethin' tells me you're not interested in bein' saved anyway."

"Brian's my boss." His half his age, not-college-educated, bible-thumping boss. Resentment ghosts through the rough of Deckard's voice where it wasn't necessarily intended, there one sentence, gone the next. "No secrets between friends works better when you don't have to worry about getting fired."

Solid enough logic. Or it would be, if Joseph hadn't succeeded in evoking an almost defensive bristle in the way his grizzled head pulls back out of its needling cant. A stiff roll of one of his shoulders against hard wood perpetuates ill-disguised displeasure at having been successfully countered. His eyes fuel back to inhuman life, the left dragging half a second behind with an unsteady fluorescent flicker. Back into hiding.

"It bothered you when I said we weren't friends." So there.

No you. Joseph slants a look Deckard's way, and unlike the other man, doesn't appear to take pleasure out of causing Flint to go on the defense, although by the time Deckard's eyes flare back up to brightness, skeletons can only convey so much, and that might be a little too subtle for ghostly bones. Coldly grinning skull, a slightly curved spine and long arm bones hooked over the invisibly wooden pew back.

His hand splays in a gesture of aggravation, a vocal sigh accompanying it. "It bothers me to be dismissed," he corrects, voice gentle if pointed. "Would it have bothered you if I weren't here?" Slip of grammar, it happens. Sometimes accidental and sometimes entirely on purpose. Right now it's the former.

On an afterthought, Joseph adds, "Pretty sure there's an ashtray in the kitchen.

"Would it have bothered you if I just showed up in your apartment instead?" Deckard inquires in rapid turn. Miraculously, in the span of a single question he manages to come off even creepier than he has thus far and completely (obtusely, even) misses Joseph's point. His eyes are hard — harder than they were before, even — bioluminescent blue leveled flat where the hood of his brow cuts down across the light.

This keeps up for a breath or two, only to fade off to the side after an even more distinct knit and furrow. Talking to people like a normal human being is lame and hard and a pain in the ass.


He doesn't sound especially sorry. More like he knows that an apology is probably what belongs in the track of silence unraveling in the wake if his semi-threat of home invasion. Increasingly stubby cigarette still prodding white and orange from the corner of his mouth, he pushes to his feet.

Joseph's face goes like this <:/ at that particular response, momentarily derailed before Flint is already standing. Might be too much to hope for, that he'd head for the kitchen rather than just drag himself outside, to go wherever Deckards go after sundown. Joseph's hand grips the pew as he, too, pushes himself up, but not so much to follow, leaning back against the bench in front of his, awkwardly standing over his dozing dog who doesn't seem inclined to be as polite as her master. She will have to say hi and bye to Flint another time.

"Probably," he decided answers, with a half-smile. "Thanks for comin' round, anyway." Despite a generous nature, the words come out awkward, as if he knows they're out of place and a little odd. He's looking passed Deckard when he adds, "It was a distraction."

There's something disarming about being thanked for threatening to break into someone's apartment, even if it's in a round about way. It's enough to puzzle Deckard into a blue-screen-of-deathesque stall, retreat cut off long enough for him to peer back at Joseph as if he's attempting to determine whether or not he's serious. It takes time for the slack of his jaw to stiffen back into an awkward swallow. Does not compute.

"…Thanks for being here."

Self-directed irritation twitches across the hollows carved beneath the hard angles of brow and cheek bones, remarkably like a flinch in the abstract moonlight. For the span of an unspent breath he looks like he could possibly make himself say something else, but he turns to leave instead, boots scuffing too quiet for the door.

And Joseph doesn't feel it necessary to throw out anymore than that, lifting a hand in a fleeting wave which occurs too late, Deckard's back already turned to him and the grinding twist of metal as the door is opened filling through the heavy church air. Another sigh joins the silence and disturbs what dust drifts by.

Now it's a matter of going home or staying here for ever longer, and the glance up from Alicia indicates at least one of them could do with the comforts of an apartment. So it's not so long after that Joseph and dog finally ghost their way out of the church too, leaving the building in relative peace to be broken into (or not) another evening.

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