Personal Interest


bella_icon.gif deckard_icon.gif

Scene Title Personal Interest
Synopsis Deckard shows up for his appointment with Bella, which is arguably better than him not showing up despite his difficulty on topics ranging personal relationship reservations to the end of the world. Meanwhile the closer they get to that last thing, the more Bella's personal interest seems to place them on a level playing field.
Date August 2, 2009

Bella's Office

Bella knew that Brandon the Bisected Balkan would be a good investment in the future. Only a few days have passed and, though the personality-squished half-Evo himself hasn't shown, he's already sent her a referral, and a formerly wanted murder suspect at that! What an exciting life she's starting to lead.

Of course, it won't do to let on precisely how much she knows about the allegations. It would become very suspicious if Bella started using knowledge she shouldn't have, calling up details she oughtn't to have been able to read about, or otherwise employ the perks of working for the Greater Good(TM) Team. And this has made the first ten minutes or so of the session with Mr. Flint just a tiny bit frustrating, not just because she knows what she knows and can't say, but because he's not supplying any of the information that she already knows, making it impossible to use in any case. C'est la psych, she supposes, perched in her big armchair, pad in hand, regarding the rugged man. "We move at your pace, Deckard," she says, trying not to sound too much like a teacher, "But I know you can be more forthcoming than this. We may not call therapy 'the talking cure' anymore, but it should be at least minimally chatty! At least until the neuroes finally invent soma." She smiles wryly.

Shoulders slouched heavily back behind the wide angle of his knees, Deckard has utilized the last ten minutes or so to busy himself with the increasingly scrappy remains of a single kleenex. Bits of white fiber litter the chair between his legs and dust irregularly across the front of the suit he's opted to present himself in for the purpose of this meeting. It's slate grey — nothing fancy. Fits well enough he probably had help buying it or picking it out, coat open over a slightly rumpled white dress shirt. Why he's wearing cowboy boots with it is anybody's guess. It's not that they clash or are offensive in the dull shade of suede brown that they are it's just. You know. They're boots.

The rest of him seems to be reasonably healthy and in decent order. The close cropped buzz of his grizzled hair is approximately level with the bristle of his beard growth, lending him a thuggish air that jives with the suit about as well as the boots. Patches of silvery grey on either side of his chin conspire with the lines carved in long around his face to make him look somewhere around a decade older than his personal information says he is. But he's here. And for all that he's thus far made a point of paying more attention to his kleenex than to Bella, it'd be hard for him to forget what he came here for in such a short span of time, so. At long last he mutters a flat, "What do you want to talk about?"

"What else?" Bella says, "You." She inches back in her seat a bit, so that the bottom curve of her rear just barely touched the back of the chair. "People go to a psychiatrist for one of a few reasons: friends and family say they should, works says they have to or, and this is more rare than you'd think, because they themselves genuinely think they need help. So tell me, Deckard… why did you come? Are you here out of obligation, or is there something you think I can aid you with?"

"I don't have a job." So it's probably not that second one. The fact that saying so still leaves two options to pick from seems to escape Deckard's attention. He's distant and distracted, closed off in the faint pull of a frown at the corners of his mouth. One boot heel scuffs against a roll of his ankle; he tips his head like he's thinking about saying something, then doesn't. It is probably slightly infuriating, but he doesn't notice that either. Too busy winding the corner of his kleenex into a needle fine point between calloused fingertips. "I'm not sure why I came here." His voice is low and quiet, graveled in an extra effort towards privacy, as if there might be someone hiding under her chair or listening at the door. "He gave me your name. I guess I have problems."

"You guess?" Bella echoes, head tilting, voice clear and almost confrontational, "If I were to ask Brandon, what problems would he say you have?"

Deckard's brows lift at that — caught off guard when his attention zags off after an easy answer and comes up empty. "Too violent," isn't a complete sentence, but it is something 'Brandon,' has had to deal with more than he might like lately. "He fucks around with my personal life. And he's seen me screw up. …A lot."

"What has he seen? And what hasn't he seen that might make him change his mind?" Bella inquires. The questions are definitely probing, but stated lightly.

The flat line of Deckard's mouth pulls into a vague slant at that. He's resisting again, already starting to balk where answering questions leads into more questions with increasingly uncomfortable sets of answers behind them. The end result is more silence save for the dry scuffing of his hands rough over the kleenex. "I dunno. Maybe you can ask him next time he's in here."

"Maybe," Bella says, in a way that means 'probably not', "For the moment I'm asking you. Particularly since, if you disagree with him, you're the best person to defend yourself. If you shouldn't be here, don't have to be here, tell me why it is you don't have to be here. Because that's the sense I get, that you're here for his sake, not your own."

"I already know I'm a fuck-up."

Probably the most certain thing Deckard's said to her so far. He even looks up, chilly eyes hard beneath the hood of his brow while he looks her over. "Most people do." Twist, twist. A piece of the exhausted kleenex falls off and he flicks it aside, eyes breaking away to trace its tumbling progress down the chair for the floor. "I think he thinks it's still reversible. You have nice eyes."

"Thank you, Deckard," Bella replies to the compliment and then moves right along… "Then for his sake, why don't we go on the assumption that you can defuck your life? You can form coherent sentences, you can ambulate with relative ease, your affect is not unnerving," she smiles, "If a little glum. That's much more than I can say for any number of patients I have. So you're really already halfway there. It's downhill from here."

Deckard watches her smile without smiling back. Not really, anyway. There's an ambiguous twitch at the corner of his mouth that's mirrored in his brows. Hard to read. Maybe automatic skepticism at her expense that he's trying to be polite enough not to show. "I could be unnerving if you think that would help."

"Thanks, but I'll pass," Bella says, tilting back a little further, letting the armchair loom up around her, "What do you imagine, specifically, got Brandon to ask you to come see me? There may be lots of reasons or events, but pick out one, ideally one that stands out, but any one will do."

A tip of Flint's brows allows for the pass without protest. Mangled tissue curled into one fist, he uses his free hand to brush dully at himself, cluttering the floor even further with bits of papery fiber and fluff. Hopefully someone in this place has a dirt devil.

"We were talking about Abigail." Almost too casual there, he finishes his dusting with a private frown and moves on to examining his hand. It falls to a slack rest between his knees once he's satisfied that it's been spared the same fate as the carpet. Then he's looking back at Bella again, almost expectant while he waits for this to go somewhere uncomfortable.

"Go on…" Bella prompts. She tries not to let the silences stretch on too long. She has a feeling Deckard will fall into them, and then she'll be stuck at the edge, shouting down.

Go on, she urges, only to be rewarded with exactly the same silence she was seeking to avoid. Deckard coils in on himself, narrow jaw flexing hollow in its scruffy set. If he could slouch deeper into the chair, he might. As things are he already looks to be in danger of somehow falling through to the other side. Once or twice it looks like he might elaborate. Instead he pulls in a longer breath or swallows or tips his head a degree or two deeper into its tilt.

"She's a twenty year old southern baptist he thinks I should fuck," is graveled out at long, long last, muttered so quietly that Bella herself may have trouble hearing — nevermind the imaginary asshole at the door. "…Also I've killed some people," seems like an odd thing to follow that up with. And yet…! There it is. Meanwhile Deckard scratches at his chin and focuses hard on the wall.

Between the choice of sex and death, Bella opts to pursue the Eros. Call her an optimist. And, honestly, she feels like the mention of killing was thrown in more as a tidbit. Time enough for that, with luck. "You sound ambivalent about this girl," she says, "Why wouldn't you want to fuck her?"

Discomfort and unease line up into Deckard's neck in the form of visible tension. Wires and cords of rangy muscle flex taut through his shoulders and up the backs of his arms; he shifts his weight in the chair. Why wouldn't he want to fuck her? It's a while before he says anything. It usually is, seems like.

"You'd rather ask me about sexploits than murder."

Bella inclines her head, "For now," she says, "Let's start with why he wants you to fuck her, and why you have doubts about it. That she's twenty, and that she's a baptist, since that's how you chose to describe her, suggest that you feel, what, that it would be immoral?"

"Don't," Deckard starts, flat affect lost somewhat to that creeping, almost embarrassed ghost of unease in the hard angles of his face, "don't — say it that way." It's weird hearing it come out of her mouth in his words, unfiltered by self-loathing and everything else shored up in his brain that makes it hard to hear the shit he says. He looks annoyed that he's making a point of correcting her at all, knuckles bleached bone white around the stupid kleenex resting at his left knee. "I do immoral shit all the time."

"Things you think are immoral, or think that others think are immoral," Bella agrees, "But perhaps not things you feel are immoral. But this… this is somehow different. Do you disagree?"

Flint came into this knowing what he was going to do and what he was going to say and how he was going to say it. Now here he is being backed into a corner and Bella doesn't even have a cattleprod or a gun or…anything. She's just sitting there looking at him. He looks back, puzzled near to the point of disorientation, mouth half open and lines etched out flat across his forehead. "I don't…" trails off into hesitation. His brow knits further, blanking at some of the intensity inherent in his glare while he stumbles around inside his own skull. "I don't think…"

"If I may put forth a theory?" Bella says, as if she'd actually wait for an answer. "Killing is something we easily forgive ourselves, when placed in the right circumstances. Be it self defense or even self-interested survival, killing can either be something done in the furious moment, or as a matter of 'business'," that Deckard is involved in some shifty business is pretty goddamn obvious, even without Bella's information, "But sex… it feels much more deliberate. And, if I'm not mistaken, you know this girl. You're hesitant to make her a victim of your libido," she taps her jaw, "Which makes me wonder, though, why you might consider her a victim. The way you describe her, her age, her faith, suggest so. What do you think?"

Deckard's unease is broken by a flash of teeth and a gust of harsh breath that bears some faint resemblance to the start of an incredulous chuckle somewhere around the idea of killing being easily forgiven. It doesn't develop into anything more structured than that, though. The exhalation dies out into his collar when he scuffs his bristled chin down after it, crows feet scratched in stark at the corners of his eyes. He's quiet again. For a while. Long face shadowed down and aside, shoulders undeniably tense in their sloped suspension from the back of his neck. "I think there's more grey area in motivations for murder than you're calculating for. I also think there's no sane…reason for her to consent. She isn't interested."

"Then what is your friend suggest you do about it?" Bella asks, "Does he believe she's interested in you?"

"I dunno." Resignation muffles voice and expression flat. Deckard's back to not looking at her again, intently interested in the corner where the wall meets the floor. "He told me ten years from now we're married." A beat passes, droll before he opts to elaborate, "Then he told me he fucked her. In the future. So — it hasn't happened yet." If there's anything odd about any of this, Flint manages to brush it off with an explanatory, half-hearted lift of his right hand.

The future? "Brandon described his inherited gift as being possession, not time travel. What would he know about the future?" Bella had, previous to her involvement with the Evolved, never once imagined she'd say something like that and potentially mean it. Brandon's potential delusive insanity is not worth broaching, at least not yet.

"Depends on how much of what he said wasn't just made up to fuck with me." Explanatory nonsense gesture having fallen flat, Deckard scrapes the same hand around heel to temple to serve as a rest when he sinks a few inches deeper into the chair.

"All right," Bella says, "I'm simply going to go on the assumption, for now, that he believes what he is telling you. What you believe… well, do you believe him? And does it matter? You'll forgive me if I don't put a lot of stock in fate, but from everything I know of causality, knowledge of the future necessarily changes it. Do you want this future he says may come, between you and Abigail? And if not, why not?"

"He's already been changing it. It's changed. I think he was fucking with me, anyway." So, there. One booted foot swings up to lock over the opposite knee and he sighs, slate eyes scraping up from the floor long enough to check her over before they return to their former study. "She shouldn't marry me. I don't think I would ask."

"Why not, though? It sounds less like you don't want to be with her, and more like you don't think she should be with you," Bella says, "Which shouldn't be something you should worry about if you genuinely think she has no interest in you," she arches her brow, "So is it rejection you're afraid of? Confirming the fact she doesn't want you? Or is it acceptance you fear? The idea that someone you regard might actually have regard for you in return?" It's always girl troubles, isn't it? Even with murderers and their time traveling pals.

A shrug insinuates itself in the subtle lift of one shoulder and a shake of Flint's grizzled head. A silent 'dunno' to line up with all the ones he's thus far been willing to mutter out loud.

"Deckard, what harm would it possibly do to talk to me about this?" Bella asks, leaning forward, marginally decreasing the distance between them, "I'm not saying you should like or respect yourself. Unconditional self regard isn't something I believe in. But you're not giving either of us a chance. Talk. Not a word of this will leave the room without your permission." And for once that might actually end up being true.

Deckard's withdrawal is a visual thing, like a flattening of ears or curling of tail between long legs, if less easily defined. He shrinks in on himself, turns his head, frowns. "I don't want to screw up her life." Earnest answers come at a cost: namely in time, as it takes him goddamn minutes at a time to force himself to answer, but also in pride. "I just…don't want her to say no either."

Bella smiles at this, rewarding Deckard's answers with a very warm, appreciative, and even admiring expression. That's her own little tribute to behaviorism. Whether or not her personal charm will work on this haggard man remains to be seen, but it's usually a decent bet. "So both your fear of a yes and a fear of a no are supported by separate anxieties. Avoidance does seem like a pretty safe choice. But safe and happy aren't going hand in hand here. You're just sustaining the anxiety rather than resolving it. Which is why you're here."

The smile doesn't go unnoticed. He draws it in with an indirect look that lingers longer than it should. Telling, maybe, even if it doesn't have him off his seat filling in the dead spaces between questions and answers with rapid fire elaboration. He isn't slithering out the door, either. "I'm here because the Italian kid gave me your information."

Italian! Not Balkan. Still, old families and riotous politics. Sounds fun to her. But Bella concentrates on the client at hand. "As much as you like him, you would have flipped him the bird or said you'd go and not, or, if you were feeling really devious, called me to tell me he wanted you to see me, and asked me to cover. I wouldn't have covered, but you could have tried. You're here because you know you have a problem, and even if you don't think it can be solved, you respect your friend enough to try. I'd like to get you to the point where you respect yourself enough to try. And that, if you want to stay on for this ride, will be our first order of business."

Some of the tension has eased out of Deckard's shoulders by the time he shrugs again. He's breathing easier, too. Pathetically. The grip he has on the kleenex from earlier has loosened into a cagier, open grasp, tatty white visible through the bones of his fingers when he tips the hard-edged length of his face back to Bella in full. "Okay."

This smile is gentler, less forceful, a coaxing expression. "Excellent," she says, "True assholes, I'll have you know, are never as torn up about things as this. I think, once you take a more objective look, you'll find more of yourself to respect than you expect. I'm not saying you'll like you. But you'll be able to look in the mirror and say 'okay, this is someone I'd be willing to buy a beer'. At least for starters."

Skepticism tips mild at Deckard's brows and lines in around his eyes while he hooks a finger back around his ear after an itch. If she says so. For now he fails to look convinced, same as he fails to argue.

"If you were ready to take my word for it," Bella says, "Then this conversation wouldn't be necessary," she sets her pen and pad aside, "So… off the record. Who are you, Deckard? And what's so bad about you? Besides and including the whole… killing people part."

"I'm a forty year old ex-con and alcoholic whose only friends are insane, bright eyed 20 year old activists or terrorists. Or both. …And a pastor." That last one is thrown in as an afterthought, almost apologetic, like he isn't sure how it got in there either. "I spent my twenties in prison, never finished college. My parents disowned me. My sister's a drug dealer. I sell…other things. Whatever people are willing to pay for."

"Quite a CV," Bella says, therapist brain quickly passing the information back to her Company brain. Terrorists? Activists? She's well trained enough to keep these nodes floating, only loosely linked to one another, so as to avoid distracting herself while she builds a tighter grid, a more concrete gestalt, of the man before her. "Does the age difference bother you? Or is more your disaffection, while these 'bright-eyed' young people do what? Make the same mistakes you did? How do you feel about your friends?"

Chest lifted flat across the top of a long-drawn breath, Deckard finally finds himself enough to sit up straighter in the chair. That or he's 42 and his back has started to hurt. Some rustling and rummaging and leaning over the side of the chair to check for a trash can later, he's mostly settled back in. Still slouching, if not as much. "Both. All. I dunno. I think most of them are idiots, but they keep saving my life and feeding me, so."

"Let's forget what you owe them," Bella says, "Why would they keep doing that? If they're idealists, it can't be just that you're useful. Have they ever said why they save you, feed you? Have you ever asked?"

"I tried to help them, once. Twice. It's complicated. Only one of them knows what's happened the few times I've been left to my own devices." And now you, says the look that shines clear and not quite accusing through the halcyon blue of Deckard's eyes across the office.

"Humor me. I had to learn neuroanatomy. If what you have to deal with is more complicated than that, I'll give you my diploma," Bella says, tone wry. It's not the most professional tone she's adopting, but professionalism is just another way of saying you're not willing to get your hands dirty.

Deckard smiles. It's a dragging, half-breed sort of thing, barely even a tug at the corner of his mouth, but it's there and it stays there long enough for him to shake his head no after he's had a little while to think about it. "If I wanted a diploma I'd clean up and go back to school." The crossed over boot toe lifts a little, as if to remind her that he spends his money on alligator hide and alcohol rather than college education.

Bella points at the man, now that her hands are free of recording instruments, "That's no answer. That's more smartassery. Maybe if you were trying to pick me up that would fly, but this is not bar, I see no drinks, and we're here on your dime. So talk. How did you try and help this people?"

"Do you think I'm trying to pick you up?" Now it's Deckard's turn to look intent, both hands winding together slack in his lap while he watches her and his boot tips restlessly down the opposite way. The kleenex has been aborted; it's off on its way to being consumed by the sit of the chair cushion against the arm rest. "Why's it so important how I helped them? I could…make something up. Say I shot some poor son of a bitch because I thought I was helping to save the world or had an eyeball carved out've my head with a knife. How the fuck would you know?"

"Lies are often more useful than the truth," Bella says, gliding to the latter questions neatly, "The truth is easy. Lies take work, take effort from lots of different parts of the brain. So go ahead, lie to me if you'd like. Do you want to save the world? Did you think about it beforehand, being a hero, or did you move in the instant?"

"I tend to think of it more in terms of not dying and still having a planet to live on when I'm finished not dying." The change in confidence from conversation of Abigail to this conversation is marked. Deckard's looking at her head on, answers quick, brows hooded and glare searching stark across her face. "I guess it's nice that everyone else gets a place to stay too."

"But not the people you've killed," Bella offers, by way of contrariness, "So you'd describe your actions as primarily selfish ones? That when it came to do things that mattered to other people, you did it because it was also what was best for you?"

Deckard's nose rankles against his will — a break in composure that's echoed in the way tendon draws out light across the backs of his hands when they close together a little more firmly. His eyes flick away again and muscle knots at the back of his jaw, biting back an automatic response that ends comfortably in the silence he has a habit of shutting himself into.

Bella takes this silence for assent, at least that's what her somewhat relentless posture suggests. "Only… getting your eye carved out? How was that in your best interest? What selfish motive informed that decision, or whatever decision led to it?"

"I have two eyes," Deckard points out, too flat and too bland to be as casual in this shared observation as he might like to be. His boot swings up. Down. Up. In a loose circle, while he examines her legs.

Her legs cross, uncross, but much too quickly for anything to be seen. It's unclear whether or not she's aware of his vigil. It seems more like an agitated motion. She laces her fingers together and sets her hands on her knee, bracing it. "And any number of Evolved can heal," she says, "I'm going to assume it wasn't a lie, even if it was, at least for now. Why did you do it? Why did you let it happen?"

"Maybe I don't know anyone who's Evolved." Attention narrowed back on her face, Flint only cants one brow up this time. It's possible. "My eyeball was worth less than what was at stake."

"Maybe. But I don't think so," Bella says, meeting his slate eyes with her own pale blue. She has shifted entirely into a confrontational mode, her back straight as a board, head tilted very, very slightly, "What was at stake?" She's tempted to add something snappy, offer a remark on what body part he'd prefer to loose an eye instead of, but that'd be pushing it too far. She doesn't want to give him an easy out.

If there's any set of postures that Deckard recognizes readily (aside from ones that say 'please do me') it's confrontational. He's back to eyeing her again, chilly gravity such that his seriousness fails to flatter the lines fuzzed in stiff around his mouth and jaw. "Why…don't we pick up here next time? End on a cliffhanger."

Son of a- Bella covers up her momentary frustration with a smile, and this time it is unlike the previous ones, this time it is sly, approving. Touche. Very cute. She gives a nod. "Only if you promise to treat me to the thrilling conclusion as soon as your busy schedule allows."

Deckard half-smiles again in turn, thinly-veiled insincerity tempered somewhat by a sinister sort of self-satisfaction that can't help but be honest in the fact that it is…what it is. He pushes up out of his chair, slowly if not particularly stiffly. There's no popping of knees or stretching or lingering in any form, really. A simple, "I'll check with my secretary," and one last probing glance later, he turns to let himself out.

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