Pretty Bad


bella_icon.gif deckard_icon.gif

Scene Title Pretty Bad
Synopsis Flint keeps a horse. Bella gives away a secret.
Date November 12, 2010


The overgrown roof of Flint and Bella's apartment building.

Travel is dangerous. More dangerous even than before.

Which makes it all the more ridiculous that Deckard has somehow managed to find feed. As in, animal feed. For horses.

Like the one he is keeping inexplicably in the overgrown roof garden of their apartment building.

It's the same robust bay gelding he was gallumphing around on when the 8th rolled around, currently in the process of trying to eat as Flint pours feed to bucket, big horsey teeth going ronch ronch ronch in between efforts to muscle his captor and keeper out've the way. Saddle off and antibiotic applied to nicks and lacerations in the brute's hide, he is looking better than he did on the 9th.

But not much. Horses do not belong on roofs.

What Flint will do with all the horse shit, is what Bella wants to know. Though perhaps that's part of what accounts for the garden's lushness. Bella is not about to go over and check. She likes nature in the abstract, focusing on the upper curve of the circle of life. Sans decomposition.

But this she has to see. Bella's gratitude at being saved in such a painfully odd and oddly gallant manner has left her with tolerance for these shenanigans. Plus it gives Flint an activity that doesn't involve violence or alcohol.

She worries what might happen to the horse should Flint have one of is downswings. Bella tries not to let herself imagine scenarios, possibilities. She mostly succeeds.

And it's something to watch. Weirdly bucolic. Life at the edge of post-apocholyptia. Stabling a stolen riot cop's horse on the rooftop next to an atom bob crater. A strange frontier for strange cowboys. Flint already has the boots, after all.

She leans in the doorway, a little skittish of the creature. Bella's with her father on the matter of horses. She doesn't like the idea of anything that's that much bigger and that much stupider than herself. "Do you think it has a name?" she says, voice lifting to carry across the span of the roof, "horses have names, right? Race horses do. Weird ones. Like 'Wild on Sundays' or 'You Betcha'." This is common knowledge, she thinks.

There is a shovel bearing tell-tale tufts of greenish brown herbivore shit left lying around up here somewhere. As for what happens to the shit itself — so far he's let gravity sort it out in a kind of barnyard pissing contest vs himself at odd hours. How far can he make it go?

Presumably not too large or stupid to be completely unmanagable in bipedal contrast, Flint shrugs the rest of the feed sack into a trash can, chilly eyes just this side of unnaturally lambent in the all-consuming grey of another cloudy evening in dystopian November. The horse is something for him to occupy himself with that is not looting or drinking or. Looting and drinking.

Or killing people.

And he hasn't hurt it yet, some necessary abuse in the face of great icy death aside. If anything he is probably spending too much time with it, smoking and sharing his beer and watching smog lifting black off the surrounding city to the tune of wailing sirens and helicopter chop.

It's kind of nice.

"'You Betcha,' is a stupid name for a horse."

This is all really for the best. There was no way Bella was going to say it, but she felt Flint needed a hobby. This was not what she would have suggested or even remotely imagined, but it's somehow fitting. The heedless iconoclasm of it seems right on the money, and that tendency is part of Flint's crazy that Bella can most easily admit to finding charming. For what it's worth.

"Yes, I agree," Bella says, unfolding her arms and taking three slow steps out into the open air, "I think horse names are intrinsically stupid. I intend to call it 'the horse'. I don't think that will lead to any confusions."

There's still a haze, over a week later, hanging like a bad mood over the city, though the full sun can fade it into the least of smudges. Bella keeps checking it, seeing when the last of it will fade, or when she is no longer able to tell if it is there or if it is not, which amounts to the same thing. "I miss the nineties," she says, looking out at the skyline, staggered in perspective by the Hudson, "when saving the rainforest was my biggest concern."

"Okay," agreed without much resistance re: to name or not to name his trusty steed, Deckard scrubs blunt nails into dusty horse hide as it eats. That he hasn't named it himself after over a week seems pessimestic, somehow. Or otherwise uncharacteristically responsible. He should probably give 'the horse' back. To 'the police.' So that it doesn't die of exposure or cholic or bullet wounds.

As for the nineties, to the best of Flint's recollection he was simultaneously in prison and training to be a secret agent, so. He is more reticent than usual on a subject that doesn't seem like it should be touchy accordingly, neutral silence as grey as the weather while he recollects his beer and scuffs away from 'the horse' to join Bella in taking in the scenery. Eyes off, eyes on, Eyes off.

He takes a sip and offers it over to her.

When Bella takes the bottle, she pauses to give it a slight swirl, checking the liquid level, and thus the ratio of beer to backwash. She restrains any impulse, however, to wipe off the mouth. Doing that would be not only insulting, but also senseless. After a certain point, you have to accept when someone's germs are, for all intents and purposes, your germs as well. Such is the nature of practical romance.

It's still pretty cool, which is about the only way Bella can conscience drinking beer. More a wine woman herself. That this is normative is something she's aware of, but can't change. Taste is what taste is. And the taste of the beer is as bland and as drab as she remembers. So, at least Flint doesn't have to worry about her hogging it.

Though she does hang onto the bottle for a moment. Like a prop, thin neck tangled in her fingers, body tapping against her elbow as she crosses her arms. Reticence is taken in stride because, well, there isn't much other alternative. She needs to pick and choose the concessions she presses for, and Flint's opinion on the Clintonite years… low on the priority list.

"I go back to work soon," Bella informs, "not something I'm looking forward to but…" she shrugs, in absence of any single comprehensive thing to say after 'but'. Anything besides the utterly non-descriptive 'I have to'.

Oh. Work.


People still do that. Leather jacket slack on his shoulders, Flint rolls out a shrug that is less nonchalant than it seeks to be, mainly because he's pretty quick about looking over at her to measure what else 'returning to work' entails. Seeing as he's a wanted felon and fugitive on the run from her employers, and all.

Behind them, 'the horse' swishes his tail against invisible flies and resettles his hooves against crushed dandylion and crabgrass.

"I guess I want to know," Bella says, upon further consideration of something or other she's thinking about, jumping associations from work in a short chain, "if we have some sort of escape plan. Something more than, 'go deeper into the ruins'." Chelsea is, to her, close enough. "Don't people on the lam escape to the Everglades or something? Not that I think I'd like to move to Florida, given many other options.

She turns toward Flint, facing his profile directly, their gazes painting perpendicular lines. "If we don't, I don't know, maybe we should? I don't know how these things work, honestly."

'Go deeper into the ruins,' isn't a good enough plan? Dubious on that account, Flint knits his brows, greyed out eyes roving from Bella to the burned out skyline nearer to Midtown, where the Hotel California still stands. Fully stocked enough to withstand a small-scale seige, and with enough of a vantage point to see trouble well before it arrives.

Still, the breath he might've used to argue on behalf of his personal safe-haven is settled out into a sigh instead. "We could — drive down to Mexico." There's a silent I dunno somewhere in all of this, mulish unease at the prospect imbued in the slant of his shoulders over his spine when he glances down after his beer. "I know a few people."

"Do you think they wouldn't find us in Mexico?" is not a 'duh' question, it's asked honestly. She really wouldn't know. Fugitivity is, even now, a hypothetical state for Bella. That they might not bother doesn't occur to her. Bella's sense of self importance is large enough to block that thought from view.

'Knowing people' is something Bella will refrain from inquiry about. Even she doesn't care to find out unless she really has to. She wonders how many of the 'known' have been sandpapered out of Flint's mind. And whether any of them he 'knew' to avoid. Best to pray it not come to that.

"Maybe I should start doing a better job at deflecting suspicion…" Worry about the present, then, not the future. "I just hate it there. I hate the idiots who don't know what's going on, and I hate the slimeballs who do even more. I leave exhausted every day and I barely do anything."

Poor, poor Bella.

"Depends on how bad they wanted to find us." Seeing as Flint's iteration of Mexican life isn't all that different from his way of living in New York and involves more sand than socialization, odds are the answer is: pretty bad.

Still for a beat after being forced to consider more than the barest twinge of detail, Flint resolves a restless buildup of energy into a reach for the beer bottle she's still holding onto. It doesn't cross his mind that he might have a reason not to go back down there. Most of the memories he retains outside of that episode's thrilling conclusion involve warm sand, warmer sun, whiskey and a lot of time to himelf. Also, horses. Like 'the horse.'

All the being shot and abandoned and backstabbed didn't come until his friends caught up with him again.

"I don't even fucking know…" Bella says, with a world weary sigh. She could work on her bitter stoicism. They're not on the run yet. Maybe they never will be. Maybe the charade can last forever. Maybe the world will become a better place. Maybe people are capable of good. Bella wishes these things were true. But if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

You know, apropos of equines.

"Things could be worse. In a couple specific ways," is Bella being philosophical about things, "maybe I should make a list. It will be a poor man's counting of blessings." A beat. "Do you still keep up with your journal?"

A beat is what Flint parcels out in turn, scruffy head finally angled around after her in full. He is greyer than he was when they first met, either because — he's greyer, or because he was having his hair colored before.

Only Raquelle can tell.

In any case, the rest of him is mostly the same. Tall. Hard-hewn edges and hollows, clear eyes, narrow jaw. Limited dialogue.

He says, "No."

There's a brittleness Bella wears, a frosty mien that tends to accompany her deepest bouts of self pity. As if self pity were somehow more palatable if one wasn't weepy or pathetic (in both classic and contemporary senses) about it. It starts to thaw, though. Or at least crumble, like an ice heave under steady pressure.

"I-" she starts, and then stops, arms tugging a little tighter about herself. With winter coming on, Bella's phantom chills are harder to distinguish from real ones. "I think-" she begins again, and cuts herself off once more. No third time, charmed or otherwise, is forthcoming. Silence is catching.

Uh oh.

Too sharply observant without all the translation software necessary to make easy sense of everything he registers, Flint freezes up in his rectangular prism of roof space. His eyes've gone a little bugged with alarm under the hood of his brow. It occurs to him that she does not usually stammer. Also that she is shivering.

On the cusp of something so simple as an, Are you okay? he glances to see if there is anyone else who is watching instead. But there is only 'the horse.' Who is not interested.

Good for it. Like it needs to worry about sapient stress. It's on a roof for God's sake. Though it seems content for the moment. The open sky counters the containment of the gulf that fences them in. And a decent enough jump might clear the gap. A prairie of platforms, this could be. That or just a horse death trap.

"Come here, please," isn't stammered. It sounds more Bellaish by far, being an order dressed up in courtesy. She still looks pretty cold though, shoulders starting to hunch.

Okay. Still bristled under an (appropriately equine) veneer of sketchy insecurity, Flint sets his (at some point reclaimed) beer aside on nearest raised barrier and turns to comply. The only problem is that he follows directions without any real improvisation of his own, distance crossed so that he can look down at her at a steeper angle.

At some point it seems like an okay idea to put his hand on her shoulder so he tries that.

That's a start. The slight 'settling in' wiggle she gives acknowledges touch with motion. And it suffices for a few seconds, one arm lifting like a snake out of a basket, hand catching on to Flint's arm. When the few seconds have passed, though, she has another not-quite request.

"Make me feel better," is sort of a tall order for so few guiding details. If he will not go to the improv, the improv comes to him.

There are three things that make Flint feel better, not counting killing people. They are, in no particular order: drinking, smoking and having sex. Having already tried to ply her unsuccessfully with the first and aware that she does not partake of the second, he's left to hedge warily after the third without really. Thinking it's a very good idea.

In the end, some awkward hesitation and some pressure to push/smother her into him that has more to do with the automatic draw of human warmth than any decision-making process self-involved or otherwise, he — comes up short. And does very little, beyond standing there helplessly. "We could rob a bank."

"What are the chances I'll be shot or caught?" Bella asks, a question that is so terribly practical, and so unrhetorically, unsardonically spoken that it almost sounds like she'd consider it. Which, if she is, she does so only because she's safely up here on the roof with Flint and his horse. 'The horse'.

Plus, considering how her cards have come up lately, bad odds might favor her. Improbability seems to be piling up as it is.

"I dunno," says Deckard, officially this time. Also unsardonic. "I guess that's what makes it worth trying." Because it's more exciting if you don't know if you'll die or go to prison or have half your face blown off. Theoretically.

An effective buffer against the wind for all that he isn't much else, he's content to stay put and breathe, well-trained enough not to get grabby while she's having a. Thing.

"I don't think I would like jail very much," Bella muses. She also steps over towards Flint, passing through a slightly denser stream of air, the wind that he's blocking boiling over at a slant. Her hair kicks up in this moment, a few strands going flying before settling as she steps past, closer to him now. "And I know I don't like being shot. So I think maybe a plan B is in order. Thank you for the suggestion though." Sincerity again? Ironic maybe? Very hard to tell. Even from her own perspective.

Nobody likes jail very much. Least of all Flint Deckard, who would probably be living a more 'three kids, an ex-wife and a dog' shaped life if not for the big house's influence over his tatty soul. So it goes. Anyway, he's all out of plans and helpful suggestions, not-quite-earnestly apologetic in the look he gives her once she's closer. She's smart enough to know better than to expect otherwise.

Hey, maybe it's for the best. Plans haven't worked out all that great for Isabella Sheridan lately. Least of all her own. Half formed, half baked and half completed, maybe winging it is the way to go. This, at least, is what she'll tell herself. And it might eventually make her feel better. Maybe it already is. She's not sure.

What Flint doesn't give, Bella won't demand if she can't just take it herself. She wraps her arms about him and sets her head to his chest, gaze swinging around and landing on 'the' horse's blankly receptive face. Oh hi.

"Are you done feeding and watering it?"


Possibly more receptive to being hugged as a result of having more huggable souls partially photocopied over his own, in this case there is also medication and familiarity to factor in. Bella is touchier than Abby. Also more persistant, so. He doesn't seem to mind. Actually, he doesn't seem to mind so hard that he turns the concrete scuff of his chin down into her wrap around him, gradually gearing himself up for a brush of his lips that is probably not substantial enough to distract overmuch from the horse peering dimly over at them.

"You could resign."

The horse loses interest before Bella does, turning away to nibble at a dandelion leaf, giving a huff of irritation as its attendent seedpuff nearly populates the interior of its snout. Bella does see this however. She's shut her eyes, an attempt to paint herself as the more bored party between she and his horseship.

"I know. I've thought about it," she answers, clearly the start of a arc of reasoning ending in the negative, "but I-" she pauses, not wanting to say it but basically having to, now, "…know too much. They'd watch me ever more closely, or they'd wipe my memories. I- don't want to lose all that. I don't know how delicate, or how thorough, they would be but I- can't take that risk."

And then something occurs to her, something Bella's programme of near-radical honesty had conveniently overlooked before. "I'm- sorry if this sounds petty or squeamish, considering your history," much of it erased, "but at the same time, you can understand my feelings, right?"


Affectionate outreach limited to the single effort while he's too awake and sober to not overthink everything, Flint is warm and still and lax enough that leaning into him doesn't feel too much like leaning into an iron rail. Less like that than it could, anyway.

An ambivalent tip of his head is more of an audible rustle than a full gesture under the circumstances. His shit got scrambled. Maybe it helped or maybe it didn't; he isn't as sensitive about the erasure as he is the implications of what was erased. In most cases.


He's honest enough in turn to say, "Not really," and then, "but that's okay."

That was really just about establishing context. Creating cognitive proximity. "I could tell you something," Bella says, head shifting so that the side of her nose strikes a tangent with the curve of his chest, "things I know about you that you don't anymore. I don't honestly think they matter anymore. Or I don't think they should. I'd much rather they not, in fact. But I could tell you. If you asked."

Even given the heightened odds their conversations have of being unusual, this one has taken a turn for the unusually unusual. Deckard hesitates accordingly, doing maths of the nature of am I supposed to say yes even if the answer is no and is the answer really no and why is this suddenly important. Maybe she wants to tell him he used to be better or worse at hugs, or.

Steady blank punctuated with a sluggish swallow, he's eventually forced to lift his shoulder into just half a shrug this time. Not quite enough pause to register as reluctance. "Is it bad?"

"Yeah, it's pretty bad," Bella says, giving a nod that causes her hair to rustle in that always surprisingly noisy way. Ruumpl ruumpl. "And like I said, I don't know that it matters. I just want to give you the option to know. I feel like everyone should at least have that."

She's flush enough against Flint to feel the way he draws up into himself at it not just being bad, but pretty bad. Wiry muscle winched a gear notch or two stiffer through his core, tapeworm curiosity already grinding against chillier dread. He doesn't say anything.

This was really pretty terrifically unfair, as so many ostensible acts of honesty tend to be. It's her own conscience that Bella is trying to clear. Worse, she's trying to clear it without consequence to herself. Trying to do and not to do. What is presented as choice, as agency on Flint's part, is anything but. Cheap move.

But there it is. And Bella is not guilty or conflicted enough to make the cut herself, to say 'yes' or 'no'. Just self interested enough to make her preference clear. "I don't think it matters anymore. It's all so thoroughly history." That nightmare that aloof assholes are always trying to awaken from.

It matters. It matters or she wouldn't have brought it up out here on the roof with a horse and a haze of burnoff lingering sooty grey over the city while clearly bothered about something other than the onset of the apocalypse. Previously preoccupied with less pressing problems — who he should try to give 'the' horse back to and when and whether or not he should try to kiss her — Flint isn't there as a comfort anymore so much as he hasn't thought to move while he wrestles with the ropy grey mass of his own brain, sides stiff and brow hooded low.

He doesn't want to know, hesitation enough to indicate hazy awareness that he is probably better off not knowing. But she brought it up on her own. So it must be significant. For some reason.

"Tell me."

Dammit, but she doesn't want to! For any number of reasons, most of all the sheer uncertainty as to result. Uncertainty is necessarily part of the experimental process, but a well crafted experiment has some knowledge of its potential outcomes. It is controlled, its results to some extent predetermined by its precepts. A principle Bella applies more generally to her life. Surprises, these days, are too often unpleasant.

But he asked. And she said she'd tell him. So. She does.

"From my best understanding of the situation," Bella says, hedging somewhat at first, and disliking herself a little for doing it, but oh well, too late now, "I don't think you were ever a deep cover agent. I think that the cover was actually more or less the truth. You were, from what I'm taken to understand, psychological salvage." And, at the risk of talking to much, she continues. "I can't honestly know for certain. This all happened way over my head. But-" But yes. That would be it.

Quiet and still, Flint stands roughly the same as before. He doesn't look stricken in any exaggerated sense of the word. There's no tangible flinch or recoil, internal soak kept carefully — internal. Hearing it's more than he thought it would be to process, persistent self-doubt always bolstered by the convenience of fallback explanation or excuse. He could beat himself up for it to a healthy extent and know that there was a chance it wasn't really his fault.

It feels like it's a while before he looks at her again, spectral share shuttered into finer focus. Not accusing yet, but on that fine, fine line.

Bella eases up off Flint so as to better meet his look. She's quite good at looking guileless, when such an appearance is called for, though there tends to always be some hint of the imploring, the kind of tilt that belies the remarkable efficacy of guile masked by its opposite. Not that this sort of thing works reliably on Flint.

"I don't think what they did was-" is how she begins, but she has a hard time figuring out what she doesn't think Flint's mental repurposing was - 'right'? 'good'? 'ethical'? - the kinds of words that can't not sound false coming from her, "fair," is instead what she settles on, at term, in her mind, more bereft of primary, absolute value, "but, for what it's worth, I'm grateful. That they did."

It takes considerable effort to say what she says next. Not because it is untrue. Not by any means - deception, deflection and deferral are pretty easy for her. And not even because it's true, either. It's the way such a truth is expressed. Again, coming from her, it can't not sound at least a little funny.

So she tries very hard to say it any other way than whatever way would sound trite and insincere. This is her best attempt: "If they hadn't - done that - then I don't think we would have- spoken again."

At the smallest denomination of positive outcomes, her efforts are rewarded with an absence of violent recoil. Deckard doesn't suddenly reach for her or shove or even tense up as if he'd like to — and a steely thread cut across the hollow clamp of his jaw suggests that he just. Might. Any sudden twitch of hostility would mesh him firmly into the version of reality she's dissected and pinned open for him.

Not sure how he's supposed to react otherwise, he steels himself in a near perfect vacuum, sealed off and thickly insulated. He looks at her for a time and then away, a slow blink slicking over corneas that had threatened to fog dry otherwise. Not even sullen non-reaction just. Unclassified non-reaction.

There are lots of things Bella can imagine saying. Stuff about how, regardless of what happened, he's a new person now, that subjective truth is more important than objective truth in such matters, that it's a fresh start either way and it's best to take it, a whole pile of truthisms and deepities and other irritating word series that add up to:

"Don't worry about it," Bella says, which is maybe not appreciably better than her other options, but at least it's glossless. No positivity here. "Please," and she's catching his cheek, insisting on eye contact, "it absolutely doesn't matter," begging the question as to why she felt the need to tell him all, in that case, "not to me at least."

Unfortunately Flint has already decided to worry about it or he wouldn't be reeling around in his skull like a bisected planarian.

He looks at Bella though, tolerant enough of fingersnappy attempts to keep his attention not to bite at her when she touches him. That Bella Sheridan thinks being an honest-to-god psycho killer 'doesn't matter' fails to reassure completely, somehow. Not when he's still party to the occasional impulse or off-color dream.

He rankles his nose, strain compressed and released into a beer-stink blast of air that is a step up from corrosive silence. "Anything else?"

"Nothing comes to mind," Bella says and when, in the wake of this comment, nothing does come to mind, she leaves it at that. No corrections or amendments necessary. Thankfully. "Do you need time with this?" is offered, but just as quickly qualified, "because I don't think I plan to give you any. So you should let me know, now, if you do. Need time."

"No." He will take time later. When he is lying awake staring at the ceiling until 6:00 AM or on the couch watching MTV2 and TLC on mute or sitting on the roof smoking with his the horse while the sun comes up or sets or for the various spaces in between.

The inevitably unspoken why did you bring this up weighs heavy behind, below and above him but isn't directly addressed. There enough for her to recognize without the inconvenience of being forced to answer. "We can go inside."

Learning to translate out of silence is an project ongoing. Harder when it's a silence meant t convey nothing. This current unspoken, communicatory in at least some small way, is easy mode for Bella by now. And if she's going to bear the weight of blame or accusation, she'd much rather tackle it from this angle. She has what she thinks is a pretty good answer.

"I told you I wasn't going to betray your trust again," Bella explains, with the clarity and speed of an answer already formulated, "I've got a handful of things left that I take seriously. That's one of them. You're one of them," a pause shorter than the space of a breath, "This is one of them."

Safe to assume 'this' doesn't refer to the horse.

Flint nods, acceptance (if not total understanding) through the lingering murk of skepticism re: references to the seriousness of their attachment. Explaining that it has as much to do with him as her and isn't an issue of trust so much as it is one of hard-learned pragmatism. Shit happens. Promises are hard to keep. Especially when you're an evil scientist sleeping with an alcoholic violent offender and fugitive ten years your senior.

He hooks paired fingers after her wasteband, a distracted fidget that is comfortable without going any further or with added implication while he lets himself agree. Also with silence. Less loaded, this time. He doesn't want to argue about it.

It would probably be of zero comfort were Bella to explain that the arbitrary or even purposefully lack of reasoning that informs 'this' is sort of exactly what qualifies it as an actual choice, in her mind. That acting against the calculations of better reason, refusing to bow to the necessities of good sense, is precisely what, she believes, lends value to that action. Being with him, that is. Pretty much no good way to say that either. 'I'm with you because it's a bad idea'.

Whether it is better (which is to say, more flattering/less insulting) than the other reason - 'I'm with you because there is no one else' - is up for debate. Assuming you'd want waste time making such distinctions. Likely Bella will, in fact, bother to fight it out in her own mind, quite possibly while in an altered state, quite possibly around the same time Flint takes his own time to ponder the unpleasant.

Later, though. Not now, nor in the succession of perceptually discrete nows that will break against her, driven by the incessant current of time. Procrastination is a useful vice in the proper amounts, a poisoned patience, pharmakon for deferral.

Bella gives a slight back and forth wiggle of her hips at his intrusive fidget. Too slow to be resistance or refusal. Acknowledgement, then. Only a stop away from encouragement. Her heels lift off the ground as she cranes upwards to kiss the line of Flint's jaw. No argument attempted. No further words.

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