Paper Planes


bella_icon.gif deckard_icon.gif

Scene Title Paper Planes
Synopsis For the first time since their last, rather violent, parting, Deckard and Bella meet, and in a new professional capacity.
Date April 28, 2010

Fort Hero

Deckard's transitional containment cell.

The thing about 'containment' is that it is what it sounds like and very little else.

The room is an inoffensive shade of eggshell, not white enough to ache at the eyes or off enough to feel stale in fluorescent lighting. A lone cot is bolted to the left wall, perpetually unmade between Thursday mornings at eleven, when the linens are changed. There are no windows, mirrors or heavy objects. Few hard edges. The overall impression is similar to that of an egg chair, oddly utilitarian and more comfortable to sit in than it looks like it should be. The toilet, shower and sink are in a separate nook with no door after Flint tried to close someone's head in it early on.

Not that he remembers.

The marker is gone too. Taken after he got bored enough to try sniffing it. Only the notebook remains admist a few books he hasn't bothered trying to read, pages missing where he's torn them out and creased them carefully into jet planes the way he is now, scruffy head bowed and knees apart over bare feet. They're as bony as his hands, if currently less occupied. His garb is a lot like the room. White, and somewhere in the awkward no man's land between prison uniform and scrubs.

A camera under a bubble he hasn't been able to pry loose watches him fold and no external noise penetrates the thick metal of the door and its Grate. Occasionally people or food come in. Occasionally he goes out. And more often than they'd probably like, he watches them through the walls.

But for now: paper airplanes. Two are already partially crumpled near the door, wilted and bent. Inferior designs.

Cells like these have, by sheer weight of numbers and exposure, hammered out a space in Bella's mind reserved for the familiar. Hours spent with rows of monitors, giving off a low hum that builds, one upon another, into a drone - it's enough to make Bella feel more sorry for herself than those contained within. Fair? No. But come on, who expected fairness?

Unwelcome, too, is Fairness's elder sister, the stern if somewhat visually impaired Justice. It would be hard to argue that containment and tedium are sufficient to account for the list of events Bella peruses as she hangs by the door to this particular little cell. What she has in her hand, attached to a clipboard, is the official story which, like most such stories, consists of fragments of truth vigorously rearranged and then cobbled together with liberal amounts of horse shit. What she reads is what Deckard has officially done and why he did it, with the latter serving as whitewash for the former. Bella does not fool herself into thinking she knows the true truth - a notion as silly as it sounds. But this excremental amalgam will do. Close enough for Company work, at least.

She does Deckard the courtesy of knocking, three times, before swiping the lock and swinging inside. Bella holds the clipboard in one hand, while the other grips the handle of her crutch. Pity Deckard can't heal anymore, so that what he giveth he might taketh away. Despite the obvious presence of the injury, despite this being the first time she's laid eyes on the man since he shot her, Bella's smile is as practiced and steady as ever.

"Good evening, Flint," she says, for all the world as if this were her studio apartment office. Then again, in recent months cells have become just about as familiar.

Deckard's eyes desaturate at the knock, pupils contracted like cuttlefish chromatophores flinched back into pinholes in his skull, too quick to be caught by human hands. There's too much light in here for his to matter, spectral neon in private shadows reduced to bloodless grey. Not unlike those same cephalopods dragged to the surface to bubble and choke shapeless with the bends.

It's a temporary read — long enough only for wary identification before the door opens and more human coloration has inked its way back into blue and slate. The better to fold blunt nosed stealth fighters with, callused thumbs turning up flaps that are more symmetrical with every bird he churns out.

He doesn't have very long to decide whether or not he is embarrassed to be here in front of her with his (white) underwear draped across his (white) bolted down bedside table because he's decided he doesn't like them and won't be wearing them anymore until the next time he forgets he's decided as much. Today is the third time.

"Hey," seems like the thing to say. It takes him a while to look up at her and her crutch and longer still to stand. There aren't really any chairs and if she wanted to sit on the bed next to him she'd also have to sit next to his underwear. He looks more rickety thin without leather or pinstripes or crocodile hide boots to fill him out, all angles and edges under the drape of the simple staff provided clothes he does wear. "Sorry about the underwear."

Bella arches a single thin brow as she adjusts her crutch to serve as a prop for her back, allowing her to lean back with some amount of support, and to keep most of her weight on her good leg without looking too lopsided. It also frees up her other hand so she can take the clipboard in both, glancing across it but not really taking anything in - its a gesture meant for him, not her.

"I served my time in medical rotation," Bella states, with a small smile on her lips, eyes still on the sheet before her, "It'll take a lot more than a flagrant display of briefs to upset me. I don't seems that delicate, do I?" This question occasions the lifting of her eyes to Deckard, as if she's looking for an answer to this question, even if the answer is something as momentary as an expression.

She doesn't wait around for it, though. Her eyes flick back to the clipboard, grounding them symbolically in 'business', before she slips it back under her arm and brushes a bit of hair over her shoulder. "Officially, I'm here to take an evaluation, give my opinion as to your general readiness. So… if you want to get out of this," she gestures at the confines of the cell, "Place, now's the time to show me just how sane you are. Of course, don't try to hard to run before you've crawled a bit. We'll both be up shit's creek if we rush this."

Tick. Tick. Tick tick tickticktick. Deckard watches her too carefully, tall and closed off in the slight angle of his head away while his brain casts carefully back and forth across the dial of an uncracked safe he isn't sure he's supposed to have access to. Before he can zero in on the solution, her eyes fall back to the clipboard and his trip after them, prying from afar on their way to flicking over the crutch.

Measure is something but it isn't action. He doesn't lunge or step forward or even go too still, like he's thinking about either. Which isn't to say that he isn't.

His paper airplane turns over once in his fingers, one wing weakening under sweat's clammy influence until it drops it back onto the bed behind him. It's been long enough since she asked that he can draw in a deep breath, scrub a hand through his increasingly rough-shorn hair and pretend he'd assumed the question was rhetorical so he doesn't have to get it wrong. "I think both of us already are," is just a flat observation, no more hopeless than it is anything else. "What do I do?"

When Bella breaks professional affect, it's generally to some specific purpose. Her new colleagues at the Institute would agree with Bella: efficacy and protocol are uneasy bedfellows.

Which is all just to say that Bella, to specific purpose, visibly rolls her eyes. "Jesus," she says, "Flint, come on. It was one thing trying to pull you out of yourself when you weren't yourself. That I understood; I couldn't blame either of us. But now?" The shrink leans forward, one hand moving back to adjust the crutch to accommodate the shift in her center of gravity. "Work with me, Flint. Don't make me think I took two in the leg for nothing."

Bella's head tilts, hair falling to form an acute angle. "You're not the first person to come back in bits and pieces. Screw kings horses and kings men, we're more than equal to the task, you and I. Just give me the bare minimum of confidence I need to get started." Her gaze flickers across the paper planes strewn across the room; she took note of them before, but she's doing so pointedly now. She points to one of the ones that appears to be in better shape, then motions 'gimme'. "Would you?"

Honest wonder isn't something Bella's really had the opportunity to see spelled out on Flint's long face. It widens already buggy eyes and slacks the tension in his jaw — the change in address and mention of That Thing he did to her with the gun and pulling the trigger effective enough as a one-two that the minute he takes to readjust his perspective seems more like five.

He closes his mouth first, swallowing cotton away with something more like chagrin than resolute comprehension. Then he pads belatedly to retrieve the indicated plane, watching her as he might a potentially territorial bulldog until he's past and stooping after crisp paper and pointy ends. The stiffness in his own leg is reduced to just that: stiffness, where knotted calf muscle hasn't yet lengthened back out into its former rusty spring self.

"I feel better," is offered with the plane once he's straightened automatically at a loop torn and raised methodically out of the ass end. Eye contact exists as a laggard, deliberate presence. Something he has to consciously think about maintaining. He doesn't get all that close either. Close enough to reach, and for the antiseptic soap and detergent smell of him to infringe on the whiskey and gunmetal of more antagonistic memory. "I don't like this room."

"Well, that certainly sounds like a good start," Bella remarks, taking the plane between thumb and forefinger and drawing it towards her, turning it over in her hands, investigating it with the air of a craftsperson. She nods at the little air craft.

"It always drove me crazy, as a kid, that no matter how I tried I couldn't really improve on the dart design." Bella takes the pointed ends of the wingtips, folds up the corner, takes the other corner, folds that up, forming little stabilizer fins. "Looks nifty," she tosses it across the room, the flick of her wrist light, letting it coast through the air as slowly as the swift dart will go without just falling. "No real performance increase."

She gives a small chuckle, "My first trip to Florence, I was… what, eight? Stayed in while my parents went to the Uffizi and the rest, making paper airplanes, all sorts of experimental variants. Wasted a lot of useful paper that vacation." Signifying what, exactly? That Bella had a childhood, some period of innocence? Or maybe that she got an early start treating experimental material as disposable.

"I can't do much more than make suggestions," Bella says, returning from her brief reminiscence, "The real decision happens way over my head. But I will make my suggestions strong and incessant if you can make me confident it won't bite us in the ass. So… tell me honestly how you feel. And please, for once… be verbose."

Staring isn't really the same as eye contact it turns out. There are differences, not all of them subtle. Stripped down to bone and papery white clothes as he is, various degrees of bafflement show naked in the way he looks at her talking about herself. Like he's only just realizing that she's a person, or didn't expect her to confess as much to him. Or both.

Suspicion of some lie or dart angled manipulation does not immediately write itself into spidery lines around his chilly eyes, anyway. He is too busy abstractly wondering what else and less relevantly did she try taping tails onto them the way a ten year old gets inexplicably fuzzy when a buxom teacher pays them some perceived fraction of special attention. Let's them feed the tarantula or spend a few minutes of extra time on an art project.

"I've never left the country," is almost like an attempt at conversation at least, for all that it isn't true. He's been to Mexico. But sometimes people forget that countries on the same continent count. …Or that they went at all.

He smiles slightly despite himself, teeth showing in a flash that he's quick to scuff away with the back of his wrist. Especially once it's sunk in that she is asking how he feels and he has to answer or risk being in this room with uncomfortable underwear forever. Probably not with her, either. He swallows again. And almost inevitably, he freezes up, gears biting at empty air.

Bella's lips quirk sideways in a mildly sardonic way, aided by the slight squint of one eye, like she's confiding something in a 'straight talking in the face of reality' kind of way. It's nothing like how she acted when she was a therapist, and it's hard to tell if its put on or just plain unfamiliar. "You know, I'd suggest that maybe you could get a brief assignment somewhere exciting, like Prague or," she gives a slight 'heh' eyes flicking off him and pointing at nowhere in particular, marking the little exhalation of mirth as for her own benefit, "Amsterdam," as she says this last word her eyes coast back to Deckard, steadily but in no hurry, "But…" she continues, "Chances are you'd be running around, outwitting some Tier 3 lunatic; needless to say, too busy to enjoy the sights and the culture."

She reaches behind herself, shifting the crutch a bit - the place it was pressing into was starting to get sore. "Though I don't know. There's gotta be a milk run somewhere nice…" she arches a brow, "Bangkok? You could get a ride on a river boat, each some lychee nuts? Some light surveillance thing? I could tell them it'd be therapeutic. Doctor's orders."

Doctor's orders. "I shot you," Deckard finds himself reminding aloud after a pause, three words cast dank and quiet against free talk of Prague and Amsterdam and being James Bond on a riverboat. Himself or her. Both seems likely — reality check dragging like a hooked anchor through murky water and loose silt. Cuttlefish again, translucent tentacles touching insecure and skeptical at a picture too close and too blurry to make out.

"You cried."

Also he killed some people and cut into them, coils of bowel steaming in the endless winter and that kind of thing. Near as he is standing there, more or less comfortable despite his leg and her situation with the crutch, he flinches into a more calculating remove, glare sweeping past Bella to rake around in the wall's invisible wiring instead.

"I'm confused about how long I've been here. Sometimes I think it's been a few days. Sometimes I wonder if I haven't been here for years. I had a marker." His right hand is splayed as absent proof, palm out, where ink of the non-tattood variety still stands out faint over the writing callus at his middle finger.

Bella's eyes narrow for a moment, as if she doesn't quite know whether or not to believe him. Which is crazy, on its face, because it's pretty clear he did shoot her and that she did cry. In fact, she was there when it happened. But that's not quite the nature of her suspicion. It's as if she's not sure whether to believe whether he meant to shoot her, and if he thinks she really cried. The question is not of the actions, but of the belief in the essential truth of those actions.

Whatever result falls out of that perverse calculation is condensed enough for her to speak matter-of-factly, and without detectable upset. "It was a professional hazard. We both have them," she states, and pauses before amending, "And I did break our trust. I think your reaction was…" she bites her lower lip in thought before finishing, "Comprehensible. In a clinical context." She gives a shrug, looking away, as if this snippet of psychobabble had been 'too much', some kind of confession.

This could be the tenth time she's told him the story about the airplanes. The possibility hangs foggy in the obtuse slope of Flint's shoulders, trapezius strung like suspension cables from the stack of his spine. But even if that's true, he could wake up in the morning and not remember and it won't matter because you can't really suffer the loss of something if you don't remember you had it to begin with.

He goes through the paces of suspicion, finally, and it shows in his eyes like it does in his posture. Ill-timed, no doubt, though he's present enough to register what she's saying and refocus accordingly, narrow jaw set in an aside before it locks back into place. "I think maybe there's something wrong with you. And I wanted you to hurt. But I'm glad you lived."

"Thank you," Bella says, and these words are said without a hint of sardonicism or distrust. She believes he means what he says, and that is evidently sufficient. For recognition, at least. She is quite for a while, maybe even half a minute. Her gaze is frankly appraising, but without a penetrative edge or clinical eye.

"Do you really not want to see Thailand? The Jade Buddha? Take a day trip to fly over to Saigon?" Bella's voice is tinged with a mix of incredulity and wonder, "Would it be impossible for you to put things aside long enough to try and enjoy something? Because that," she wags her finger, up and down, at him, a sort of emphatic half-point, "Is what you need to be capable of. And I could swear you could do it."

"I've never thought about it."

Deckard's candor is paved even in return, quiet like he expects that'll keep the people listening in from hearing. Nose rankled against an itch and a sniff, he re-animates in fractions and starts. A slow breath in and a roll of his shoulders. He splays his toes and breathes out.

"Saigon I mean. There are things I enjoy." Like drinking and sex and drunk sex and maybe even being too drunk to have sex. His eyes tick sideways, calculating his own afterthought. This a list that has grown short enough that it might be considered a lie. He blinks hard, shakes his head. Being open-minded is hard. Back up. "Saigon is that like — Chinese people?"

Bella shakes her head, smile so close to a smirk it's only the good natured tone of her tease that keeps her from genuine assholery. "Vietnam," she corrects, like she finds it charming that he's slow, or something, "I hear it's beautiful. The Jewel of Southeast Asia. Great mix of French and Asian cuisine too, if that's important to you. I know it is to me. Eating out is the essence of a vacation, in my opinion."

Her arms cross over her chest, the clipboard dangling loosely in one hand. "What you enjoy is self destructive self indulgence, a pathological style that remains untouched even after all the awful stuff they did up there," she uses her chin to indicate his head, "Maybe my thoughts on this are evidence of whatever you think is wrong with me, but I figure… you get a fresh start? Even at great cost? Take it. I promise I'll be keeping an eye on you for you. And I promise I won't break our trust again," both her brows rise, "I'm getting really sick of crutches and walking sticks."

This is a pretty wry joke, but the effect doesn't linger in her manner. In fact, she seems to soften somewhat, to become just a bit tired, but not weary. Just hard worked. "I'm glad to have you back, Flint. Please stay."

Oh. Vietnam. Not entirely unused to saying stupid things and having people leer at him over it, Flint manages to shake off his own ignorance with a vaguely apologetic tip of his head. "I was almost killed trying to get a donut out of a dumpster once," as an addition probably doesn't help his case much, either.

He nods to what she says next, agreeing because that's what he's supposed to do and not because he thinks it's something he's capable of. It's not a dismissive nod. Just a sort've faithless one. He probably intends to try.

"Okay," is what he says when he finally says something else at all, earnest in isolated words the way taciturn people are when spelling it out feels like less of an option. Please don't lie to me is very nearly a tangible riposte, but under the circumstances it feels like an unreasonable request and he just Looks at her instead. Then he turns to pick his way around discarded planes for the whitewashed slab of his cot.

Bella gives a single, soft sigh, uncrosses her arms and tugs her crutch out from behind her, slipping it under her arm and taking a loping step over to Deckard. Her hand lights on his shoulder and her fingers squeeze. "I'll see what I can do about getting you a less dismal room. Three days in here should qualify you for acute depression."

The shrink eases back and makes a hopping shuffle towards the door. She holds the door open with the rubber tip of her crutch as she turns back to Deckard. "Greece, maybe. The Aegean sea. Authentic frappes. Crumbling ruins and olives," she says, looking almost pensive. She nods at Deckard, once, "Think about it."

"It'll be lights out soon. Don't you dare stare into the darkness gloomily. Get your rest. Lack of sleep can influence you mood," Bella says, by way of extended, maternal fairwell, "Sleep tight." She eases through the door, into the hall beyond.

Flint glances up after her at the squeeze, amenable to the offer and to contact and probably to reluctant guilt too at the way she has to hop and shuffle. He watches her out in silence, eyes pinhole glimpses of light in a field of black for the two seconds of delay between the overheads shutting off and the camera toggling itself over into night vision.

Once she's finally too far beyond the wall for him to track he settles creakily back on his elbow and eventually his side. Not everything's healing up as efficiently as his leg.

Whether or not he sleeps is a question to be answered by the next watch shift, though. No amount of lecturing is going to keep Flint Deckard from staring gloomily into the dark.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License