bella_icon.gif deckard_icon.gif

Scene Title Responsible
Synopsis You are, to the people you raised you, and to the horses you stole.
Date December 4, 2010

Chelsea - Deckard and Bella's Apartment

The heat is out. Which is just fantastic, now that the temperature has officially hit freezing. It crept up on Bella, engrossed in her reading, and it was only after wondering 'why am I shivering' that she went on to realize it was because she was cold. And then the pieces of the puzzle allll fell together.

Lacking a super to contact, lacking a number with which to (pointlessly) call the landlord of this place, she has done as best she can. Bella is currently (and thoroughly) ensconced. The bed is barren, the clean towels (of which she keeps two) have been cracked out. The quilt her grandmother made peaks in a hood over her head, crowning the small mound of insulation she's nested around herself. Next to swaddled - bundled, really - Bella holds her book, some paperback with a sepia photo on the cover, very close to her face, keeping her arms as close to her as possible, the gap in the blankets as small as can be managed.

Is all this necessary? Maybe. It certainly feels better, on some level. Her complaint is made manifest, a protest as much as it is a pile, perched on the couch in the living room, as the cold presses in through the window panes

Flint's been out.

He's been out a lot lately. Later than he should be. Sometimes he returns stinking of booze, others he sidles towards the shower saturated in horse sweat and dust.

Tonight's one of those rare and special evenings where he's managed to marinate himself in all three, tatty peacoat bulked long and black over a gloves and a hoodie. Having perfected the art of entering too late without so much as a tell-tale metal tinkle to betray the twitch of his key through the lock, he helicopters a little blankly in the entry when he's muffled the front door closed quietly behind himself.

It's not any warmer in here.

And he is already cold enough to notice. Perplexed, he scuffs hunched over to the thermostat and hoods his brow at the readout, a rangy block of grey and black along the wall at Bella's back. Too there not to be noticed. He turns the dial one way. Then back the other, held breath huffed out at an exasperated rush when he finally turns his head to ??? at her on the couch.

His arrival prompts, first, a quick flick-flick-flick of pages as Bella checks to see how much of this chapter is left. Too much. So she turns back, and flick-flick-flicks to the next page break. Still too much. Tugging a receipt slid into the later pages and deploying it as a bookmark, she closes her read and shifts around to peek at Flint over the back of the couch, hand tugging the quilt, bunching it under her chin.

"The heat is out," is exactly the sort of inane statement that keeps human beings from harnessing their psychic potential. All for the best, really. The telepaths Bella has met she hasn't thought much of, something which she would, irritatingly, be unable to hide from such a person should it be necessary. At least she doesn't go on about it. She's on to the next topic, pale eyes flicking up and down him, taking in his affect, his bearing, his equilibrium. "Scale of tipsy to hammered, with twisted being somewhere in the middle?"

Still breathing heavily from the exertion of walking up however many flights of stairs and not falling down them backwards at every uneven sway of his equilibrium, Flint has to muffle out an automatic puff of his chest towards an answer that is probably the wrong one. The key, he recognizes, is being honest but phrasing said honesty in such a way that it sounds like he's more in control of himself than he actually is.

Unfortunately, his ability to trip carefully through an unconscious thesaurus of pleasenter phrases for 'kind of drunk' is hampered by his state and the length of his silence drifts listlessly into increasingly suspicious territory until he belches. Quietly. Kind of. "Sorry."

That'd be the red zone, past the tipping point, unable to act meaningfully less altered than one is. The kind of intoxicated when you can no longer pass as otherwise. The funny thing is that this state produces a kind of automatic honesty of its own, though lacking the desired control. No answer is answer enough.

Bella's eyes close, and she takes a long, thin breath. She could be angry. She has the choice. Hell, it might even help her warm up a little. But it sounds like… work.

"I'd rather you drink less," is Bella being honest, and with control. She's just… stating a preference is all. "Get me the bottle of red from the kitchen. The uncorked cab. And a glass. Then sit down with me." The reasoning goes, if she isn't going to be pissed, she can get away with being a little demanding. She shifts under her blankets, sliding up against one arm of the couch, making way for his expected arrival.

Positively, the absence of an inflammatory response means that there's no reason for Flint to draw into himself hangdog, hitched and sloped. Unusually upright in the face of disapproval accordingly, and at least vaguely aware of what a boon that really is, he finds himself making more of a concentrated effort to keep his shit together.

Which entails doing what she says.

Without really acknowledging the part where she wants him to drink less, anyway. A lingering look out from under the hood of his brows diverts into progress for the kitchen. In there, he bumps from one cabinet to another — a clink of glass to glass just this side short of a fumble and shatter. He knocks a box of cereal over instead, but after seeing that the bag inside is clothespinned, he…squints down at it and carries dimly on. Wine. Milk glass. Both cold in his hands when he shuffles back in and sinks heavily down into the couch. Towards the middle. Against her, rather than at the other arm.

He still smells, but he has smelled worse and of worse things.

The mound of textiles extends soft pseudopod towards him as he settles down. Soon Bella's toes are poking against his thigh. They curl, a tiny little gesture of physical acknowledgement, then splay and settle against him. A green towel shifts to one side as Bella reaches out for the glass. She gives it a wiggle, expecting him to do the rest. This ain't no self service station. Fill 'er up.

"Christmas is coming up soon," sounds like another one of those inane statements of obvious fact. Even if one isn't terribly in tune with the calendar date, the unbearable ubiquity of holiday music and festive decoration would tip one off. The most wonderful time- of the year. "I missed Thanksgiving, but I'm going to have to go to Westchester for the Eve and the big day itself."

Red wine stains, which is why Flint'd held off doing the dirty work himself, but once they're in together and she's wiggling he is not hard to convince to pry the cork and tip the bottle woozily over. The glass is tall and wide from mouth to base, not exactly elegant. But it is capable of holding liquids. So he pours, breathing slowed to better meter the exaggerated care with which he has to focus on rate and. Angle.

He lifts the bottle away when the glass is half full, regardless of when (or if) she tells him to stop at any point, and not without a hint of a blood black dribble onto the blankets she's swathed in that he either doesn't notice or pretends not to. He's warm, she's warm. The apartment is cold.

He rests the rest of the bottle comfortably against his knee before opting to push its base down between couch cushions instead. Genius.

"What's in Westchester?"

There may be some pattern governing when and where Bella's fastidiousness kicks in. Dog earing book pages is on thing that drives her mad. Also soap residue in wine glasses. Or milk glasses. Or the latter serving as the former. For whatever reason, however, the garnet red speckle of wine on blanket doesn't bug her. As luck would have it, too, her glass is crystal clear, no white crud spoiling the color or taste of her cabernet. She tips the glass to her lips, taking an extended sip, before cradling it between her palms, near invisible beneath the cover of her overs.

"My parents."

Bella's answer is direct, void of the circumlocution she was preparing herself for. The probing and testing and readying she had tinkered with in her mind. For the best, she now judges. Tolerance for her wordy bullshit does not necessarily entail the effectiveness of her wordy bullshit. "There'll be a tree and everything. Proper pagan re-appropriation. My mum even promised to make a gingerbread house." Because nothing says excitement like a waste of cookies and icing.


Right hand paused in its laggard effort to ensure that the bottleneck stays mostly upright, Flint is forced to rapidly consider variables that hadn't ever bothered to cross his mind previously. She has parents.

He met Abigail's dad. Once.

Before they were fucking. He had a shotgun.

When he tunes back in from the shrill fog of tinnitus issued forth from invisible recoil, she is talking about trees and gingerbread houses. He is sure enough that she hasn't asked him any questions in the intervening space to nod his hazy understanding. Holidays, home. Parents. That is a thing that people do. Should do.

Considering the demographic that populates the disgustingly posh Westchester County, the chances that Bella's father owns a shotgun for any reason other than skeet shooting are low. In fact, it is probable that even a shotgun put to such use is not owned by Mr. Sheridan, but was, rather, provided during some corporate cruise or whatever the hell it is the modern American gentry get up to in their spare time. Bedford, the place of Bella's rearing and the place of her parent's rest, with its average income of over four times the national average, is dangerously dull, only. With dangerously good schools and dangerously lousy with graduate degrees.

Bella talks at Flint enough, it's something of a wonder that she bothers being indirect. Inference and suggestion don't tend to get her anywhere, so one can only assume the beatings she administers around the bush are for her benefit. Ramping herself up. The chances are good.

And she's still building momentum, though the jump is coming up fast. "My dad was wondering if I might be bringing anyone," is a statement requiring some willful neglect to make naught of, "and I told him I didn't think so." Okay. Is that it? "I've thought a little more on it, though," and here we go, "they don't really see me enough. Hardly at all. And I think they're worried about me so…"

Oh no. Flint's eyes ring shrill blue before she's finished, only a few rungs up the evolutionary ladder from a jellyfish fleeting away from danger in a cold fog of bioluminecense. Unfortunately the sharp shift in contrast doesn't do much to mask the way he's hooded his brow and bugged his eyes in muffled alarm. A deeper intake of whiskey and tobacco breath than the one before it is also telling of the tension creeping numb through his middle.

He doesn't say anything. Anything he could say is the wrong thing. And even if he did somehow hit upon the right thing, the odds are pretty stellar that he'd say it the wrong way. So he just turns the long cut of his face to look at her (a little) more directly while she navigates her way over that last rickety ellipses.

Navigation over a small wine-dark sea, clasped between soon-to-be-Pilgrim's palms. A healthy sip bordering on swallow of cabernet smoothes over the space in which he was supposed to say something. His physical reaction serves just as well, however. She knows he's following her line of thought, or could if he wanted to. If they're not on the same page, at least he knows which page she's on. Seeing as she's all but shoving it in his face.

A brief struggle occurs as the tang of fermented grapes fades out of immediate sensation and into memory. Bella believes that (what passes as) success in this interaction might be more easily gained by simply assuming his agreement, by making the necessary plans, informing him of what he will do rather than asking him to do it. But shepherding him, however seasonally appropriate, isn't something she wants to do.

Tipping forward, ginger brows inclined in the shallow, inverted 'v' of appeal, she finally just comes out and asks him - "Would you come with me?"

Intensely uncomfortable the way only unofficial in-laws can make a person, Deckard sits hooded into an armidillo hunch against her, quiet and still save for a rustle at his shirt when he turns his focus back towards the coffee table. He is having another Moment. Like the one he had when he first came in, where his staying quiet was more telling than…telling.

But the more he sits there, the more the cold creeps in through his coat and jeans and sweater and he eventually has to push his near hand into whatever available crease between her and the blankets and the couch is more convenient. The other one gets filed under his armpit.

"If the idea is to make them less worried…"

…is not a 'no'! Which fact Bella pounces upon with maybe a little too much celerity. "Well, of course we're going to have to lie," she says, moving right on to stage two of this little operation, "about basically everything. But I was going to have to do that even if I went by myself, so really…"

The compliance she has taken his answer for deserves some positive reinforcement. Bella scoots forward even further, the ameboid mass of her insulation spreading up over his lap as she props her legs onto him, heels coming to rest just over the edge of his further thigh. She jerks her shoulder up to free her arm, reaching out to grab a hold of his hand and guiding it down to her waist. The air that's been held captive under her blankets has been thoroughly warmed by her body heat, and while it's not quite fireside toasty, it's certainly an improvement. Her hand leaves his to travel up his arm, catching it just above the elbow.

"I'm guessing you're better at this than I am," she carries on, talking rather briskly, forging ahead with the plan (for it is, now, a plan) before doubts or reservations can properly crystallize, "so I think you ought to come up with your cover story." Is that… excitement in her voice? There is certainly some brand of tension that isn't strictly negative. Anticipatory, engaged - the thrill of the plot.

Flint allows himself to be repositioned the same way drowsy dogs do, rangy limbs and scarred knuckles slack to her will. At one point it might've crossed his thoughts that there are Things they could do to keep warm together until they fall asleep. But that point has long-since passed. Boozy, leering intimacy is ratcheting ever closer to being the last thing on his mind. Flickers of renewed interest at a touch of her feet here or a flush of heat there are fleeting diversions at best — not nearly enough to rock the dread march of his despondence off its tracks.

He looks confused. Like he's just realized he's agreed without ever actually — agreeing. They are making plans, now.

A sideways look after the door yields no assistance. There's nobody there.

Did she go to fast? She might have gone too fast. Bella thinks that was too fast. Or at the very least, too direct. Her gut tells her to fake-renege - a sleazy emotional slight of hand whereby you say 'you only have to go if you want to', a fake choice immeasurably worse than the simple command 'you're going' because of the hidden injunction 'not only do you have to go, you also have to want to!' But that is emotional blackmail, and it's not like this interpersonal relationship needs to be any more screwed up.

Plus she thinks Flint may be immune to that kind of postmodern, doubletalk bullshit. Which is something she appreciates in him, actually.

"I'm sorry," Bella says, a hand guiding her wineglass down to the floor before touching, lightly, at his stomach, "I would like you to come. Genuinely, I would. If only because I want someone to be there, lying with me. A confederate. And I think- I don't know. I think they might like you. Not anything that you are on paper, but- but I like you, and they raised me. They're good people. Smart."

She breaks off. She's selling this every which-way, on the border of frenetic, and it surprises even her. Rather than handwave further, she attempts to be forthright. "Please," Bella says, "I'd appreciate it a great deal if you would."

Another touch is enough to pull his attention back over onto her, fluid distraction rippling warm through the fuzzy fringes of his vision when his eyes go dark again in their sockets. He isn't happy. But he's caving. Tension winds out slow through his shoulders, resignation smoothing raised cords of wire and easing some of the bite locked in through his middle.

He breathes out slow, what's the worst that could happen apathy leeching in to cement over alcohol-saturated disorientation. She really wants him to go.


It's a quiet okay, but an honest one. Legitimate consent of the sort that will still stand when he's sober, even if he regrets it more then than he does now.

For the moment, though, he feels better that he has, lax enough to tilt a lift at the corner of his mouth after her while he sits. "How hot is your mom?"

Bella's sense of triumph is perhaps inordinate. She managed to pester, poke, plead and prod Flint into doing something that, on her own admission, isn't something she should even care about anyways. But herein may, if we are being uncharitable, lie some of Flint's charm - he makes her work for these things. If value is equivalent to labor expended, then we may start to understand the profit Bella feels she's made.

And thus the generosity she feels she may bestow. Flint, lucky man, gets a big smooch, set right against the smile Bella imagines herself as rewarding. Bella, silly woman, thus inadvertently reinforces Flint's smartass remark.

But she doesn't seem to mind. What might, in poorer spirits, be perceived as irritating and uncouth comes off as harmlessly scampish. Bella smiles even as she rolls her eyes in obligatory fashion. "I think she's very classically pretty," she says, a touch archly, "but you'll have to judge for yourself, now won't you?"

Conflict over only the way a naval battle is over once you survive the sinking of your boat, Flint is dully relieved enough to slouch comfortably sideways back into her anyway. The big smooch is about as rewarding as a similar effort from something grandma shaped. More of a condoning action, really.

He doesn't answer becase he doesn't really have to. He will. Judge.

"I gave the horse back."

It's not false sympathy. Bella feels a sudden dip of genuinely sadness in her stomach at the news. Not yet at the point where Flint's camaraderie with the horse would produce inadmissible jealousy, not really being that sort of person to begin with, Bella's unhappy to hear that Flint's lost his drinking buddy. She does not say 'that's a shame, I liked that you had a hobby, something to keep you busy', because, however truthful, it's condescending to voice. It may just be condescending, period. That's by no means impossible.

"I'm sorry to hear that," is what she says instead, which sounds a lot nicer and actually still carries the sentiment, if you read 'sorry' the right way. "I liked it. I was sort of getting used to it," a beat, "do you miss it?"

"Weather's been too cold," to keep a horse on the roof. …Would be a perfect answer if Bella had asked him why he'd done it and not how he felt about it.

It's hard to read much into the long cut of his profile when he is absently disinterested in sharing. The situation with his horse is no different, hatchet-hewn angles and hollows ambivalent while he turns the genuine sink of her sympathy over as compared to more blankly back-patting I'm sorry to hear thats of seasons past.

Eventually a rustled resettle of self to couch serves as lazy indication that he doesn't intend to elaborate, in the event that she is waiting optimistically for him to actually answer her.

A cock-eyed optimist, she, and thus the wait bears on until he's properly settled… and even a little longer, taking a moment to resettle herself in response. And so she waits. And in time, sympathy, its shelf life not superb, gains a tang of vinegar as her brows furrow in a frown.

Bella's got a grip on her arm and she uses it, giving it a light shake. "I asked you if you missed it," she says, though her tone says 'answer me' instead of 'I'm pretending you didn't hear me', "I'm guessing you do. Or some facsimile thereof. I think you should talk to me about it," the hand at his stomach gives a small, quick pat, a 'pay attention' touch, "that's a thing we do. Talk."

"It's only been a few hours."

It's pretty hard to miss something after only a few hours of not having it. Not counting nicotine. Or. Alcohol. Sometimes.

Still too buzzy to care overmuch about being physically nipped at like an obstinate cow, he slithers the hand she placed at her waist down to her knee and more gradually back again, indolently uncooperative. "I feel responsible."

Sometimes you miss things even before they're gone. It depends on the thing missing, and the person missing it. Where her frown once infected sympathy, now sympathy reinfects her frown. She looks concerned, more than anything else. Seemingly on different and perhaps autonomous emotional orders, her press goes from his stomach to his own advancing hand again. "Hold on," doesn't sound like he's being shot down entirely, just put in a holding pattern, "responsible how?"

An incoherent rumble of disapproval at progress halted is not loud or insistent enough to accomplish much of anything. Having zeroed in on his own careful progress, he has to lift his chin level again to rejoin the conversation at a reluctant sideways amble.

"If I kept him he'd get sick. Maybe die." A grudging breath eases into an equally grudging lift at his shoulder. "Giving him back was the responsible thing to do."

"I imagine you're right," Bella says, soberly. She doesn't say that she knows he's right. It's pretty damn likely, she presumes, but she's not a fucking horse doctor. Her abortive hand relents, if slowly, easing the adamance of her block. "It was, definitely, the responsible thing to do. But that doesn't necessarily change how you might feel about it."

Lacking the necessary energy and motivation to forge past even half-hearted resistance, Deckard traces idly back down after the bend of her knee. Apathetic. Removed, even. He doesn't argue.

It takes a pro to admit when they're beat. Or so goes some such hastily assembled sports proverb. Bella gives a single, soft sigh, and lies back on the couch, arm at Flint's elbow extending as the top of her head bumps against the arm of the couch, though lightly. She wiggles down a bit to buy herself some clearance, then folds both arms across her tummy, staring up at the ceiling for a moment. When the moment passes, her gaze returns to him. "I have one more question, and then I'll leave you alone. Deal?" a beat, "And you have to answer truthfully. That's the condition."

Thumb and forefinger bit in a little harder than is strictly comfortable once he's flicked his eyes on to seek out tendon laid down flat over bone, Flint relents before she can complain or otherwise pull away. Needling procrastination is short-lived. His attention span is dishearteningly limited under the influence. "Deal."

The pinch earns a noise of discomfort and a squirm, but, thanks to its brevity, nothing more lingering than a glare. Bella looks up at him, a disembodied head at rest, a quilt tugged over her head like a babushka. "How did you learn to ride a horse?" is simple and brief, and is a product of days of growing curiosity about a fact that was, for understandable reasons, not given full attention at the time of its discovery.

"Quand je appris à parler français," says Deckard. When I learned to speak French. It's cold enough that he half expects to see his breath fog slow through his sinuses when he slithers out a sigh, detached from his own more or less paranormal experience with Abigail's ability. "I think he was around before cars came into vogue."

"Right, the consciousness state that was dwelling in your head. You remember that," Bella says, and she really means 'I remember that', but his memory is easier to criticize. At long and stupid last, a 'til now unfired synapse sparks into life. It's Deckard's actual speaking of french that does it. He's done that just one other memorable time in her experience. Something about him getting more action in prison, she thinks it was. Or rather, he claimed it was, and she's hardly that stupid. "The intruder? That was him? In the flesh?" She actually lacks an explanation for how this is possible, but the suspicion is too forceful to dismiss. This sort of nonsense has a sense of its own.

Francois, like Teo, has the dubious distinction of being one of Those People Flint prefers to pretend do not exist in a capacity where it is necessary to acknowledge that they are alive and present. Relevant somewhere, somehow that isn't here and isn't now if he has any say. Which he might not.

Really all that he does have is the absence of say, which is occasionally sufficient. Having answered the question she said he had to answer, he becomes more starkly uncomfortable at the followup, scruffy chops sunken in before knots of stringy muscle at the back of his jaw. He continues to trace around her knee but does not acknowledge her otherwise.

They did have a deal, and Bella recalls this - as well as her manners - just as soon as she has the space in which to do it. Flint's silence, often and conveniently available, gives her just such a space. Lips quirking to the side in an approximation of embarrassment, she turns her head towards the back of the couch and closes her eyes. "Sorry," she says, a bit limply. One of her legs shifts upwards, knee rising just a little into his touch, an accompaniment to apology.

Deckard accepts the offered apology with a tip of his head and little else, drowsy ease of mine having inconveniently condensed into something more opaque. Heavier and with harder edges.

After a beat or two, his hand even retracts soberly over into his own lap. Warm enough to suffice.

All of his blankets are covered in horse hair.

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