Remember that Frenchman?


bella_icon.gif deckard_icon.gif

Scene Title Remember that Frenchman?
Synopsis Bella and Deckard have a clandestine meet up and make irresponsible decisions. Also Bella wants to know if Deckard remembers that French guy who broke into their apartment or something for some reason.
Date March 06, 2011


Fluttering, caught in the branches of a leafless, dejected looking tree that sticks out from its tiny plot on the sidewalk, is a piece of paper. Its position is tenuous, yet oddly persistent, and the constant tugging of the wind begins to make the forces of nature look ineffectual, or the grip of that tree very strong. The little struggle lasts for minutes, or almost minutes, before the branches relinquish their prize and the paper spirals down to the sidewalk, were a vindictive wind plasters it, face up.

LOST - A ginger cat with white markings, one eye. May not be friendly. Call ###-###-#### if found. Reward offered.

There is no picture, and so the text sits large and in charge in bold face type on the eight and a half by eleven sheet of white printer paper. Unlikely to survive the next extended precipitation. But it's not the only member of its kind. In what may be a bid for its species' possibly survival, there seem to be quite a few of these little posters, some taped to walls next to fading street art, some others stapled to telephone poles, sharing space with ads for low rent apartments, the tabs of contact information snaggle-toothed and torn.

If we were to follow them to their source, to the point of generation, we'd find none other than Isabella Sheridan, taking shelter in a 7-11 which, due to curfew, is no longer able to live up to its name. Still, while the sun has nearly disappeared behind the horizon, at this time of year that's means she has time yet. Why this 7-11? It lies just a couple blocks from Bella's place of former but not yet resumed residence - her hotel. A stack of posters is clasped to her chest as she browses the selection of day+ old pastries, stealing occasional glances at the red digital clock set above the counter, counting half minutes between each consideration of stale donut, desiccated bearclaw.

Papers flagging white at the corner are directed at people who spend most of their time seeing in the visible spectrum, but when someone else pauses to look — inevitably, so does Flint. Sunglasses tipped black down the bridge of his nose, he waits until his competition has skirted off to snap paper and ink from its staple. One eye. May not be friendly.

A long-drawn breath does something to take the edge off of tension knotting in the ball and socket of his shoulder and he crumples the page into an open bin on his way up to the 7-11 proper the same way he might a love letter or unflattering photo. Embarrassed. Or something close enough.

A feeble jangle of bell to door frame signals his presence to the shop interior, short shelving cramped in a cage of dirty glass and linoleum. It's still cold enough to justify the tatty old overcoat he's wearing, grizzled hair disordered and not quite dry. He's a little thinner in the face than he should be. And he has his boots on.

Behind the counter, there's a slow crrreak when the clerk sits up straighter to better keep an eye on his cluttery domain, his suspicion not abated in the least by Flint's mild: "Hey."

Bella's glance towards the door is quick. Quick enough to be a tell, if there were anyone looking. And when she spots Flint, the duration of her initial look is too long to be anything other than recognition. Making herself an obvious accomplice, especially considering her loitering and odd, lingering behavior. Not that Bella has any sense of this - she's no spy. She imagines herself, still, as discreet.

And so, with intended if not actual discretion, Bella skirts the ever-spinning display of hot dogs and makes her way to Flint's side. Browsing… gum? Yes, she decides, as she focuses on a bright wheel of Bubblicious. Yes, she's browsing gum.

Also stealing a glance at Flint. Also saying: "Hey." Also smiling, as discreetly as possible.

Sunglasses at dusk, long coat and scruff, a flip lighter already palmed automatically off the counter close to his sleeve: Deckard has the clerk's full attention by now anyway. He puts it back after a few awkward seconds spent smothering the urge to ease it conspicuously into his pocket, placement bungled because he's looking sideways at her instead of what he's supposed to be doing.

Bones still intact, no limbs missing or new holes.

The clerk's sharper "Hey!" snaps him out've blank inspection when he bumps the precariously arranged cardboard display of plastic, metal and butane hard enough for it to rattle, a muffled, "Sorry," not enough to waylay an even louder, "I have seen you before!" complete with a jabbing point. Oh.

Bella's doing her own stasis check, searching at once for the health of his pallor, the way he carries himself. His posture and gait and consequent collision all seem in keeping with Flint as Flint, and the baseline of wellness that conveys. She wants to see his eyes, on the off chance they won't be luminous and she can examine the coloration of his whites. Checking key signs, just making sure. Not trying to worry.

Freedom from care disappears with the third and sharpest reiterated utterance, percussive and attention-grabbing. Bella can't help but look startled as her gaze snaps up to the attendant, legs tensing in momentary doeish uncertainty. What's going on?

Bella had no idea that Flint was a local hero, sunglasses serving to preserve his anonymity as much as concealing his wider spectrum of vision. Only they're one for two. Flint's been spotted by a fan. For a grim instant, a movie scene flashes through Bella's head. One involving shotguns under desks and underwater slow motion. A nightmare piece. It's vivid, convincing, and when Bella shakes herself from it she takes immediate action.

Arms thrust forward, Bella hurls the stack of remaining posters directly at the clerk, the sheets bursting into a small cloud midway as they clip the edge of a Dorito's display and begin to tumble down onto desk and floor.

It's a distraction relying more on surprise than actual obfuscation - the xeroxed flyers tumble to the ground quickly in the lazily heated air of the store - but one Bella tries to monopolize on either way, grabbing Flints arm and urging him towards the door, shoulders squared as if she were ready to push him the whole way herself if needs be.

Flint looks like himself.

His default, single-living-in-the-wastelands-of-Midtown self. Gaunt, greying, a gash across the back of his left hand still healing when his fingers lift long away from the unpalmed lighter and he hesitates, recognition dawning blank through the slack length of his jaw. The thought occurs to him that he should do something to defer suspicion, but speaking suddenly seems like a poor enough idea that he finds himself looking helplessly aside after Bella.

…Who is already in the process of handling 'it' with all the dignity and aplomb flinging a stack of papers into a grown man's face entails. Arms flail overdramatically opposite the counter, beating off papery assault as Doritos cascade into a rattling scatter.

Uncharacteristically (or characteristically, depending upon who you ask) unhelpful, Deckard slows their escape by hooding his brow and staring horse-like down at her while he's ushered and pushed and eventually coerced into moving under his own power quickly out the glass door.

He waits to ask, "Isn't that your phone number?" until they're far enough away that no one eyeing their awkward retreat is likely to overhear.

Does he not understand that she just saved his life? Flint's stubborn refusal to rise to her level of perceived danger is yet another irritating form of reticent (not to mention obtuse) jackassery, at least as far as Bella is immediately concerned. She indulges herself in an irritation that she wasn't capable of while under the curve and the concurrent duress of the Dome. It's a little like coming home, albeit a home with regular brownouts and bad plumbing. So yes, home, in a word.

She's taking his arm to better guide him away from the scene of the presumably previous crime. Bella's got no real clear sense of discreet getaway, just a sense of distance and a need to increase it between herself and trouble. An ineffective sense, too, as Flint feels the tactless need to point out. Bella's nose wrinkles in generalized distaste.

"Shit," is short, sharp, and Dr. Sheridan bites her lip to stop further follow up for a moment. Thinking. "I- it's not like anything happened, any crime or anything, I'm sure…" Brows angle into an inverted V of concern, eyes sliding up to his profile, "right?"

Rather than wait for a possible negative response, Bella shifts the topic after a brief pause. She eases just a little bit closer to him, pace still brisk but drawn back from obvious flight. "I'm sorry. About your cat. I- well, I thought maybe if you wanted to look, this- this would be the neighborhood. I don't know.

"I'm glad to see you," is tossed in on the sly, her stolen look obvious in its larceny.

Awkward silences are rarely reassuring. This one is no different. No crime happened here…today? According to the equally shoddy look Flint switches between her and the shop receding over his shoulder. The sunglasses help to mask lazy evasion. Kind of.

In any case, they're moving, bereft of spare flyers and bullet holes alike with his strides stretched to match her pace.

It's been a while since they walked anywhere in the open. Least of all on the psuedolam.

So there is a scandalous novelty to it that has him paying more attention to her than he is to where they're going or her concern for the missing cat, who nobody has called about and nobody likely will. That he doesn't seem very sad about this is a given: he is not overtly sad about most things he should be. When sober. And even if he is, he doesn't want to talk about it with his lady friend shrink thing.

"He's just a cat," he says, specificity of the gender identifier about as reassuring as his non-answer about the 7-Eleven and whether or not the owner has a reason to follow up. "I'm glad to see you too."

The cat's a point of guilt, and guilt is not something Bella is fond of or even particularly used to - she likes the constellation of her shames to remain small, dim, quickly blotted out by the sun of her self regard. As such, she decides - in Freudian form - to J'appelle un chat un chat. A cat is permitted to remain, as Flint claims, just a cat.

His echo is the appropriate one, and is rewarded by a double clasp on his arm and a concurrent squeeze. "I'm tired of this," she decides, "you look tired, too. Can we go home?" She almost sounds like she's willing to be lied to.

But maybe not. Her gaze breaks from him, sliding over to a waste basket, full of garbage, sans bag. Trash at the bottom likely composting by now. Fecund with neglect. "If possible. If sane." Sanity still being a goal.

"More possible than sane," confessed too quickly for him to not have given the issue some private thought on his own time, Flint's hard to read beyond that behind the opaque shield of his glasses. "I can spend most nights in Midtown. Reduce the odds of someone catching us off guard."

Ignorant of her eyeballs sliding away from his person to study more literal lumps of garbage, Deckard keeps on, slowing his pace unconsciously to account for her distraction. Ignorant of his own. Theft, murder and substance abuse all accounted for, he's never been a gambler.

Whatever one's temperament, it's hard to be any good at a game of chance when you don't have the least concept of the odds. Bella tries to read Flint like a barometer, hoping to discern the potential for peril from the lines of his face. It's not a detached viewing - things ride on the outcome - but it is a study of sorts.

The forecast is not ideal. Metaphorical storminess possible. Bella's lips quirk to the side, an avoidant tell. "I asked before. I'm going to ask again just- hoping that maybe something's changed or you've learned something new. Okay?"

"How long," the question goes, "is this going to last? What- what should we be preparing for here? I just don't really want to- you know- be in this state of limbo. Living out of my suitcase like a goddamn traveling salesman."

Optimism has never been Deckard's style. He runs a gravelly gradient from pragmatic to pessimistic and all the reading of each other they're struggling to do between awkward turns in the conversation is enough to stiff him back into default quiet before she's finished. The transition is subtle on his jut-jawed mug, fuzzy lines around the flat of his mouth etching in a few shades starker when she gets to the part about her suitcase.

But that's about it. Earnest ignorance leaves his shoulders lax for all that he's slowed nearly to a stall, breath fogged thin into the cold. He doesn't have any bad news to withold because he doesn't have any news at all. "I dunno," he confesses after a sluggish beat. He doesn't. Elaboration is stopped short behind a visible clip of his teeth. "I dunno why you moved out."

Moments after he stalls, she stops dead as well, looking up at him perplexedly. "What?" is said sweepingly, expressing not curiosity but non-comprehension. "Because- well, because they were going to keep an eye on me and I didn't want them to find the place. I wanted- to be able to go back." Bella's eyes hood just a little, defensive, "does that not make sense?"

Standing still causes the cold to settle in, especially in the wake of the unexpected excitement of the 7-11. A little sweat grows chill and Bella is actually hugging herself for warmth due to the elements, hands shifting to tug her jacket snug from time to time, gestures to ward of cold with all the effectiveness of superstition.

"Should I go back, then? I mean, nothing I said could matter at all after all that's gone on in the meantime, right? It's hardly a sensible allocation of resources, following me." Bella's head tilts. "If I can go back, you can to, can't you? I mean- that's why you left as well, right?" Her tone of voice is suggestive of someone who thinks they've found a loophole.

What what? Flint meets non-comprehension with non-comprehension and brow-hooded defense with brow-hooded defense. Does it make sense?

Too awkward now to reach in where it's more natural to watch her stir uncomfortably against the cold in fading light, he looks her over still again and opens his mouth and closes it and does all the usual things he does when he doesn't want to say that she doesn't make sense.

And isn't mad enough to say, 'You're not making sense.'

"I assumed they already know where you've been sleeping. Just not with who." It's a shady government organization. They know these kinds of things. Right? For a moment he appears to be trying to rake around in the compost heap of his memory for more detailed information. None is forthcoming.

"There's only a problem if they have a reason to do more in depth research." Like if she went on live television and denounced their tactics, for example.

Bella's shoulders hunch in a moment of genuine shame. It is hard for her to be wrong. She works very hard at being right - it's a top priority, a preoccupation - and failure in this regard gives her the howling fantods. "Okay," she says, "I'm sorry," as if error were the equivalent of a moral failing, "I don't know how all this works. Honestly. I just got head-hunted out of my residency. I didn't opt for all this cloak and dagger crap."

Since he is to be blame for pointing out her mistake, Bella has a strong inclination to give Flint the cold shoulder out of sheer irrational spite. Some worse part of her nature enjoys at least entertaining the possibility. Another part of her recognizes that she is tired. Tired and possibly cranky.

"Then I'll go home," she concludes, simply enough, the answer to the question 'why did she leave' being simply answered with, 'because she was confused'. Bella's sincere hope is that history will not record this moment. An overachiever's self made hell.

"You'll be able to visit how often, safely?" As if asking the question this way forecloses incompatible answers.

"Okay." Deliberate cold shoulder or no, there's a prickle of unease that staggers Flint's response time down to her making the decision to return on her own. The apology that precedes it glides past like a glacier in the night, doling out untold damage to anyone stupid enough to plow into it with acknowledgement or. Further needling.

Content to hope that she'll forget it was an issue to begin with, Deckard is quick to turn his thoughts to projecting frequency of visitation against the odds of being snatched up and locked back in a little white room without benefit of her medical advice to weedle him out. Except this is still like, the first time he's seen her in a while and it only takes him about ten seconds of standing around with his hands in his pockets to say, "I can visit tonight."

Bella directs a shrewd look up at Flint, a recurrence of that contractual attitude. Trying to figure if she's being swindled somehow. But she doesn't haggle. Instead she nods, mute but resolute. Stoically accepting this. What a little soldier.

She reclaims is arm and begins walking again, heading for the nearest crosswalk, already charting the path to the hotel, figuring in the time in the elevator, the time spent packing, the time in the cab, preparing herself mentally for the time in between. Time before.

The Look is absorbed with careful silence. The look of a swindler who isn't sure how likely he is to succeed. More or less an echo of his initial proposition with no specifics about how often or how long it's safe for him to stay. The Institute is her employer. She should know.

But there's success to be read into the way she takes his arm and starts to lead them on the way to — somewhere. Back to a place. Whether it's hers or theirs or a different one, he isn't concerned enough to muddle over it more than he has to. Just consistently low-key levels of happy to see her. Even if they wind up at the vet.

No needles, no excessive humiliations, only the mildly onerous duty of hauling Bella's heavier luggage. She appears to have a - particularly heavy - suitcase filled almost entirely with books. Bella checks out the hotel with as much speed as haste, and a fair bit of both, carrying in caravan the things she couldn't bear to part with for however long she expected to be there. As she steps up to the curb, head turning this way and that, seeing where she can find a cab. The hotel not central enough even to have taxis at beck and call.

"You hail us a cab," Bella says, jabbing her chin in his direction, "put your enormity to use." And though she's given him the assignment, she still rises up on tiptoes to try and spy the telltale yellow. She sinks back onto her full soles after a moment, and, after a moment's careful thought, says: "Have you seen any of your- old associates," the term handled with tongs, "since we last saw each other?"

Perpetually mystified by the mass and density mathematics involved in making any given piece of luggage as heavy as Bella regularly manages to make them, Deckard drags whatever he's been given like a pack mule. Unhappily but without actual complaint, slow and steady progress metered mainly by awkward maneuvering over curbs and the occasional crack in the sidewalk. He jerks things around a little harder than he should in the background when she gets far enough ahead that she's probably not paying close attention.

As long as everything gets there.

Then he's reassigned. He's late to the curb. Dragging his heels, a bag sloughed heavy off his shoulder so that he can lose the sunglasses and his superpower, which is is little use in picking cabs out of the weaving mill of traffic he's somehow supposed to overcome. And through all this, he has to think about whether or not he's played pattycake with any Ferrymen while he's been out. "I don't think so."

Bella performs another feat of augury - cephalomancy of a classic stripe - as she examines the full (if still narrow) band of Flint's communication when he answers. Though instead of predictions of the future, she is this time looking for events past. The investigative peer fades quickly, though, especially with his glasses off and his eyes on 'normal', and thus more likely to discern an over-studying look.

"Well, I don't know who you'd ask, but - you remember that Frenchman? The one we caught rifling through your things?" Safe in assuming Bella does not seriously think Flint's memory problems are that extensive or severe, the question is merely rhetorical. She still, however, waits for an answer.

"Yeah," says Flint. Flatly.

He remembers that guy.

Not all of the details, maybe. But most of the who and the what and to a lesser degree the when and where. Bullets caving through his ribcage, his throat collapsing into ash. Temper lost in a dark room. Abigail.

Breath thinned into a sigh through his sinuses, he distracts himself with a mundane look over at the state of Bella for the first time and is either more tired than he thought or more interested in seeing her than he thought. Because he has remembered Francois but forgotten that he's supposed to be hailing a taxi. One zips by without so much as a pump at the brakes. "What about him?"

When she meets Flint's eyes - actually meets them - there is a moment of hesitation. She can't have expected mention of the intruder - whom Bella saw Flint take to with what she thought was a pugilistic familiarity - would make for ideal reunion talk. This should be nice time, yes? Ginger brows peaking for a moment. Could she maybe afford to let this go, at least for now?

What compels Bella to press on, then? Less commitment to the course, more the fact that she has come too far already. She's brought it up. It's a shame how many decisions are made before we're ready to make them. Specifically how many bad decisions.

"I wanted to get in touch with him," Bella says, trying for smooth but falling a little too close to crisp, "to ask him something."

She wants to get in touch with Francois. And Flint continues to take her in without open reaction.

Then, just like that, his short term memory recalls itself. Gosh. He's supposed to be hailing a cab!

So he does, right arm swept out and up in an orangutan arc that's enough to have a yellow taxi shuffling itself out of the deck and over to the curb nearby. He doesn't actually look away from her until it's stopped, and mainly by necessity: her bag is on the ground and he has to stoop to hoist it back up onto his shoulder.

It's back on his shoulder because he's walking for the cab and gesturing for the driver to pop the trunk, which he does with a muffled clonk.

She knows he heard her, and this must suffice. It was poor form to bring up business. Bella forgives herself (of course), her justification the exorcism of spirits and the clarity of mood to follow. But now, she is sure, it's a matter settled. She slides into the cab, the interior crunching with faux leather and threadbare cloth barely keeping in stuffing. Stale cigarette smoke in the very substance and substrate of the interior. Bella settles in, ready to surrender her mobility and be carried about like gentry.

She turns around, shoulder pressing back against the chair as she peeks out of the winter-grimed back window at what part of Flint she can see above the raised lid. She lifts a hand to clasp the headrest, stabilizing her position, taking strain off her neck.

Next moment she's sticking her head out of the door, calling through strands of hair tossed by the air wake of a passing car. "Hurry up!" Ducking back inside, a gopher into her hole.

The taxi sinks back on its haunches with a rusty squeak and lurch under the weight of two blocks of luggage dumped in simultaneously. Smaller bags, bits and ends follow, with a moment's conspicuously quiet pause after instructions to hurry it along.

He doesn't.

But he doesn't intentionally leave the last of her bags slumped in the street either, so maybe they break even. He slings it in and rocks the trunk down with another clomp and circles around to drag the opposite door open so that he can slouch in beside her. And sigh. Relief or resignation.


Before he reaches to poke her hard in the thigh. Away from the old bullet wound site out of the kindness of his heart.

Bella gives a short yelp, poor gratitude for Flint's beneficence, and scoots away, retreating from his reach. She eyes him incredulously, doing a quick scan of his face, trying to discern the meaning of the gesture. A few indeterminate moments between changes in the digital clock display digits, and she scoots back over to him, taking the middle seat. Fumbling hands find the strap of the inadequate midsection belt, but numerous attempts to couple it with either of the possible buckles fails, and ultimately Bella tosses the belt across the adjacent seat. Giving it up as a bad thing.

"Drive safely!" Bella's exhorts their driver, which if it does anything will probably mean he'll drive slow or if take a longer route, drag out the fare. She fastens her arm around Flint's with purpose.

He looks cantankerous, as Deckards often do, but there is an underlying warmth and lazy affection that eases off crow's feet and frown lines when she winds her arm in his and he lets his hand fall open across her knee without further incident. Or bruising.

At least for the course of the ride.

Until they get where they're going and he has to tolerate her as overseer to the process of him hauling all of the junk in her trunk out of the car and up three flights of stairs.

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