The Smallest of Messes


bella_icon.gif deckard_icon.gif francois_icon.gif

Scene Title The Smallest of Messes
Synopsis A French invader in Bella and Deckard's apartment results in equal parts violence and unlikely negotiation over the question of which Laudani. They all want different ones.
Date September 18, 2010

Bella and Deckard's Apartment

The maximum amount of time you should spend broken into someone's house is about ten minutes. Or you know.

Zero minutes.

But even this former one, Francois is pushing it, but he hasn't looked at his watch since he'd stepped out of his car parked about two blocks away. He isn't quiet— what point would there be to be quiet in an empty apartment?— but he is careful to nudge the things he touches back into place, his fingertips dancing light over the edges of books, loose leaf paper, personal items. What he hopes to gain, here, in ordinary circumstances, does not outweigh the risk factor of levering himself in through window. But rather than ordinary circumstances, these are relatively desperate ones.

There's someone else living here, which does not take powerful amounts of deduction. There are two bedrooms. Both of them are occupied, and have been pawed through. It was the one that does not belong to Bella that Francois is currently caught in, having just refrained from touching the small stock of weaponry, but compulsively picking up the journal that takes some digging around to locate. He would know, that there are a lot of secrets that can be contained within pages, in smudged ink and lead.
So while he's here—

Crouched on bedroom floor, out of the usual kind of sight from its open doorway into the living area, there is both numb confusion and no small amount of fascination that has Francois taking up too many minutes as he flicks through pages with minor impatience. There is a gun tucked beneath a leather jacket, a light grey sweater of indistinct detail, worn down jeans, boots. Harried page flicks stops when familiar names catch his eye in the dim light, and he's frozen in his reading.

"There's someone in the apartment."

Where have Deckard and Bella been? They don't have groceries. They don't have coffee or library books or snow cones. Flint's in a light field jacket, the wiry bristle of his grizzled hair gone dark with just enough rain to black at his shoulders and back without soaking him through. His jeans are dusty brown and grey below the knee — less of an effort made today to conceal where he was before Bella came back around and they went or came back from somewhere together. He looks tall in the cramp of the hallway with his hands in his jacket pockets, brow hooded and unhappy. There's someone in the apartment.

He thought there might be but now he's sure, head turned and chilly eyes focused like a blind man's, intent on nothing. Where he had paused a beat (as if to listen), he sets back into motion quicker and quieter than before, left hand hooking keys out've his pocket into the lock while the right loosens a revolver warm out from under the back of his belt.

There's someone in the apartment and their bones are familiar.

Oh, this is just a nightmare. It had been a long day, and longer than most, and Bella very badly needed to unwind and maybe do a little reading, maybe listen to the radio. She did not need to fear for her life again. She gets enough of that at the Suresh center, ever glance from the security personnel carrying the threat of recognition, approach, apprehension. Next, Harper's smug face, and then nothing, as a black bag descends over her head and…

Yes, fair to say, Bella needs to unwind. She's under a certain amount of stress right now. But she's all the way up to tension as Deckard declares that they have company. And not in a way that suggests that Bella should prepare some nosh or fix cocktails.

"Maybe we should just go…" Bella suggests, hand going out, almost making it to Deckard's sleeve before recoiling as the arm she would have tugged moves back, hand going for the revolver. She wasn't fibbing when she said guns scare her. "Oh God-" is her breathless little cry, volume low but pitch spiked high with fear. "Oh God. Oh no…"

Eyes closed. Deep breathes, in and out, in and out. Count to ten…

Oblivious to high anxiety, raised hackles and also the turn of the key, Francois has found a page. It's an interesting page, even more so than the catch and snag of names— in this tiny world, running into familiarity is commonplace, especially when one is looking for it— but the slant and angle of the writing itself. It's enough to derail him, temporarily, tipping the book a little more towards the window to spill natural light on the page and try to clarify that no, that isn't his handwriting.


Doggish sixth sense has Francois' skull, in Deckard's view, raise up from where it had been tipped inwards to read, black sockets pointing nowhere in particular. Then back down on the object in his hands that doesn't translate in X-ray vision as easily as the gun at his waist. The unfolding of limbs and uncurl of spine show him standing, but there's uncertainty in the gait that doesn't take him to the door. His attention remains on paper, scribbled words.

Hammer tripped back and trigger finger hooked across the guard, Deckard double-clicks his way in past the deadbolt and bumps the door open with his shoulder. Then he's in the entry prowling for the living area, grey squares of cloudy evening light plotted across wood floors under a slack muffle of thunder and a scatter of cold rain at the windows.

"Gun on the floor," he says once he's most of the way there, something that sounds a lot like anger quavering quiet over gravel and dust. "Kick it out to me." A slightly wild-eyed glance sideways gauges for whether or not Bella's following. Safety in dubiously stiff-spined numbers, right?

Following would be an overstatement. But Flint doesn't need X-ray vision to see Bella, at least not her head, which is peeking furtively around the doorframe, two eyes and a diagonal slice of face - her nose, a bit of her mouth, a cheek. The thunder, something she sort of likes sometimes, has her on edge. Is it really necessary for the weather to be as foreboding as the mood? This is not the genre Bella signed on for.

Backpedaling, Francois goes moving towards the wall that has the doorway in it, but freezes two steps in the way when familiar voice grumbles through the space. Green eyes are wide in pale face, jaw going taut with aggravation, and he moves the rest of the way until his slightly rain dotted shoulder is touching plaster. If it's compliance that has him taking his pistol out from his holster and putting it on the floor, it doesn't go along with vocal reassurance.

When the pistol skids out into conventional view of the doorway, it's about half a foot inwards of the bedroom, muscles going tight with anticipation. That Francois is still gripping the journal is more neglect than intention. "I didn't come to hurt anyone," is quiet reassurance, even as he stares at the space of the door with the readiness of a cat close to pounce.

Deckard could be a dick about clarification here. No, all the way out, is a pretty significant one, for example. Unfortunately he has a tendency to not think in straight lines anymore. Also a Frenchman he despises is in his bedroom reading his super secret diary despite all the hot pink PRIVATE!! DO NOT READ sparkle stickers pasted to the cover.


After a slow beat, he eases the hammer out've its cock on his own gun and slings it down out of his hand. Not at the wall or off to the side or over to Bella, but down across the wood flooring so that it clatters off of Francois' piece and both go skittering clickety clack into the uniformly grey corners of his room about the same time that he steps into it, scruffy head already angled alert after undesired company. He doesn't say so but he looks like he has come to hurt someone.

When armed men are in Bella's apartment, menacing each other, it would seem Flint is the common factor. Given, in both instances Flint is ostensibly the one on her side. Which is… great. Just great. It is only with a remarkable, impressive feat of courage that surely neither of these oafs will ever truly appreciate that Bella sneaaaks her way into the entrance and makes her ginger way after Flint, staying well behind him. Though the guns have been dispatched with, Bella is not yet confident that this encounter has shifted to a level on which she can be of any real value, a wonderful excuse for her cowardice as she tries to keep clear of the line of danger, a difficult task since she has no idea as to where that line would be or even what kind of danger would be flowing across it.

There is a full-bodied and telling twitch to Francois' body at the movement of gun through door, clacking against his own and out of reach, watching it skid away with the look of a man who loses his gun way too often in these scenarios. He's a second too late in his frozen hesitation, as result, when he pushes himself off the wall by the time Deckard is crowding his long-limbed frame into the mouth of the bedroom. Francois can sometimes think along straight lines, usually often, but if he was doing that a lot these days, he—

Probably wouldn't be here in the first place. White bones or otherwise pale flesh, black leather and navy denim are a bundle of energy as Francois goes to launch himself after skittered weapons in an attempted dive. Why he is here and that he was here because of Bella, who could well be present, are distant thoughts that dance out of the way of more pragmatic objections like getting his stupid pistol back maybe. The journal falls out of his hands in the interim.

Yaaay he wants to fight!

A retarded little tickle of adrenaline and good cheer prickles up the back of Flint's arms and mere entry transitions into assault easy as that. The average number of violent adventures per week he's had lately has suffered substantially since he moved in here and began to agree with things Bella told him to do. Now one has come to him and he throws himself into it with all the gusto of a locomotive confronting a Toyota that has dived across its path after a gun.

Which is to say that he plows the full of his weight into a diving tackle of his own, wasting no time at all. He's not trying to get a gun, either. The full of his intent involves feeling his knuckles crack on Francois' frenchy cheekbones.

Oh goodness!

Bella would be offended to see a woman depicted in a film or other media object doing what she is doing now. Culture runs, deep, though, and Bella is oft offended, so when a disarmed scuffle breaks out, she reacts as so many media objects would have her. She stands in the doorway, a hand clapped over her open mouth, eyes wide with performatively feminine shock and alarm.

She does not interfere. Not yet. She is, for the moment, quite useless. As her gender role demands.


Momentum shifts from Francois' surge for the guns to a different trajectory as dictated by Deckard charging him down, the breath propelled out of his lungs as his legs buckle, crashing to bedroom ground which, as it happens, is less giving than Mexico desert sand. There's a hiss of French cursing, usually elegant if deceptively so, but it's harshed out from his throat, hissed through white teeth.

"Casse— " A hand goes out to grip sleeve, elbow coming up to catch in Deckard's face. He attacks to escape, or better his current position in the world.

Scrambling is graceless, even with strength behind it, but his anger has the unfortunate position of not being quite so focused as Deckard's is.

Fist to face. Head bounced back against the floor. Elbow to his face, where a faint line of pink marks out the split his son recently put there. Flint's eyes roll ghastly white in his head and his weight slacks sideways as if out've a saddle. Under the sheer totality of massive blows to the head, eyeball excavations and memory rewrites he's endured over the last two years, soaking any strike to the skull entails a roll of the dice as to whether or not he's going to remain conscious.

This time he does. But there's a misfire somewhere, and it takes him a second to bind the fingers of his left hand hard back into the fabric of Francois' collar. Static fuzz bleaches round the fringes of his vision even when his eyes flicker back into unholy blue. He isn't going to last on top, no matter how much he bares his teeth and rankles his nose and tries to hook the thumb of his free hand into whichever of Allegre's eyesockets is most accessible. He should probably tell Bella to get the guns. Instead he tells her, "If you're just going to stand out there you could at least start taking your clothes off."

Even in the throes of batturu, it does occur to Francois, in his own random synapse firings disconnected from scrabbling brawl, that Deckard being flatmates with Bella Sheridan could actually be beneficial, might have been more so had he known this before, but sparking optimism flickers and flutters in the wet of disappointment that he has severely fucked this up. The woman over there is meant to be giving him a psych evaluation. Putain de merde de— fuck.

There's a thumb driving into his eye, which has him twisting beneath Deckard, wild and now pissed off in a focused way. Half his face feels branded numb from the first punch, tasting blood where teeth hooked into the inner of his cheek and shed copper-tasting red. Legs drive up together to shove the younger man up and off, flailing hand catching on the column of his throat in pushing encouragment, fingers finding soft places to dig in.

What… what did he say?

As it happens, offense and indignation are precisely the cure for her paralysis. Really, she would be thicker skinned about this, but the nastiness of Deckard's voice, filtered through her aggression pushes through the filter that normally keeps such comments from doing more than irritating her. No such luck. Better luck, really.

Of her own accord, Bella goes for the guns. They scare her, yes, but much less when she's the one with them. Skittering across the room with rapid steps, the psychiatrist heads for the corner where the two pistols lie, and snatches up Flint's revolver, a decision made on the non-eason that it is the gun most aligned with herself and her interests. Lifting it in trembling hands, finger finding the trigger which - thank God - is not a hair trigger, she lifts the weapon and points it the general direction of the two grappling men and, actually…

If they're just going to fight like that they could at least start taking their clothes off.

"Stop!" Bella doesn't squeak. No, by no means a squeak. Most definitely a commanding… uh…

I got nothin'.

The re-entry of at least one gun into the mix is well-timed if not all that well-contemplated.
Flint's eyes flicker and the rest of him flinches as soon as Francois' fingers sink in on either side of the boxy bulge've his throat, all reactive. His breath seizes up and there's more than rain slicking the bare lines banded into bristly neckbeard, cold sweat damp at his collar as it is as his brow.

He doesn't struggle. Just lets himself be rolled off like a log to land hard on his back and shoulder. As far as epic battles go, this is not his most inspiring performance.

It makes Bella look pretty good, though.

This time, Francois doesn't go for his gun. It may be the smartest thing he's done in the past half an hour. He rolls sharply away from where Deckard is tumbling, displaying some iota of grace when he's abruptly on hands and knees, but that's where it ends, a hand clapping over left eye as if to stem the ache— well. His whole head aches, from the smack his skull received against the ground, to knuckles leaving bruises in vase-curve of cheekbone. The groan that occurs is rough and rasping, squeezing his eyes shut before blinking them open again.

Now a hand goes out, placating the woman in the room even as his dizzied stare casts mistrustfully to Deckard. "Je suis desolee," he says. If Bella has been around the Suresh Centre lately, there may be a slight chance she'd recognise him as one of the medical personnel working pro bono on the second level. He doesn't look like much down here, though. There is a distinctive scar, a piece missing from his left ear, a ripple of old damage across his throat.

"Dr. Sheridan, oui?" It's meant to be reassuring, that he isn't a random burglar.

For obvious reasons, it's Francois that ends up with the gun trained on him when he and Flint break apart. Bella is confused at first, pure cognitive dissonance making it hard for her to recognize someone she recognizes outside of their context. But her brain smoothes out those creases pretty quickly. Her hardy new strain of paranoia certainly helps in this regard.

"You!" she exclaims, because she doesn't know Francois's name, and it should be pretty clear to whom she is speaking, "what the hell are you doing here?" The doctor's lips thin, mouth becoming a straight line of fury. "You son of a bitch, did you follow me? Were you trying to find him?" She jerks the gun in Flint's direction, which is maybe not the best way to indicate the person you're ostensibly defending, but hey, she's not used to guns.

And then Bella pitches headfirst in the genre she was so resistant to entering. It takes just three words: "Who sent you?"

Having writhed backwards out've any burning desire he might've had to keep fighting, Flint replaces Francois' hand at his throat with one of his own, one bony thumb probing slippery after any discrepancies. Or something.

A shiver hisses through his teeth when he finally reaches to reclaim the folded knife that clunked out've his pocket at some point, poison funneled into a reclusive half-sit and scoot away closer to the wall. There he can sort himself out with a lesser risk of anyone else touching him.

Also, he has a better view of them both, even though technically only one of them has tried to screw him so far.

"Roger Goodman," is spoken with some irony, citing the head of Human Resources with the company they have some weird relationship with. Francois isn't enjoying being crumpled on his knees with a gun pointed at him, but standing isn't really much better. His tongue sweeps against the injury inside his mouth, casts another look towards Deckard to keep him firmly within his periphery. Blinks hard, switches that gaze back to Bella. "I don't know how to explain. I didn't come here to hurt you. You're— meant to be doing an evaluation for me. You're meant to tell them— the Institute— I'm an Evolved healer, when I am not really."

The situation is wildly out of his control, and at every word that comes out of his mouth, Francois finds himself wishing he could recall it again. Nothing sounds good. "They have Teo." This unwieldy hook, a desperate attempt for allegiance, is directed to Deckard, who is met with the same hard, demanding stare that he sometimes received in his hallucinations, when that one knew him completely, demanded he be better.

This is a little similar. "I was just trying— I don't know. I didn't come here to hurt you. If anything I'd like to talk." Even when his lightly accented speech is slurred from getting punched in the face.

Bella's a good listener. And she's willing to listen. The thing in her hands, heavier than she ever expected it to be, is not something she trusts. If feels like a prop, something she's using to bluff the man she has it trained on. In fact, she has a deeply irrational feeling that, should she pull the trigger, it will somehow surely end up killing her. Growing up in the 90's, in Bella's mind a gun will invariably betray her, like all poor kids with bad parents who leave weapons lying around.

So she listens, and while what he says doesn't really add up to anything, she looks like she might be ready to ease up on whole gun-pointing thing. That is, until he mentions Teo. That look of fury returns, redoubled, and Bella points the gun down, at the floor between Francois and herself, and fires.

Much, much louder than she expected, it takes a moment for Bella to regain herself from self-enduced fright. When she does, however, she's glaring at Francois, revolver lifted again. "Shut the fuck up," she snarls, "you have stepped into shit like you don't even know. You will explain yourself in detail or my only evaluation of you will be as acting physician at your autopsy." Wow, and that was just off the top of her head.

Busy glowering at Francois like he might be trying to figure out where the switch is in his head that microwaves people, Flint bristles visibly both times the Frenchman looks back his way. Narrow jaw sunk hollow and shoulders stiff, he's otherwise content to camoflage himself into the background of his own quarters. His cot over there with a duffel bag full of guns shoved underneath. A pair of old pants on the floor. A few books. His journal.

More rain.

Teo's name elicits shady intrigue and then shadier suspicion, neither of which have a chance to evolve into anything more elaborate before a lead round buries itself in wood flooring and he spasms away from his nerves (again.) Eyes wide while he gets slowly to his feet, the slate of his long face blank with bewilderment to the tune of shrill ringing fresh in his ears, he re-measures Bella in complete before his stare ticks back to Francois. Woah.

In similar gut-level instinct, Francois cringes back from the firing gun, heart leaping to his throat and vaguely relieved when he sees the mark gunfire makes in the flooring. He's scuttled back a couple of feet, but remains frozen, now, eyes wide and wary and wondering what part of that he said— besides all of it— that was incorrect. He doesn't bother to hide his obvious misery at this turn of events, even if assessment knifes through it as he watches Bella with the look of someone not wishing to take their eyes off the dangerous thing. People who don't use guns much are still scary when they have one.

His hand hangs out between them again, surrender, palm open. "Great detail is difficult. I can try.
"They— the Institute made two other Teos. Cloned them, and divided him into them. One is from the future. Ghost. The other is the one that came before. They have the one that is the mix of both. I'm trying to gather information so— " His voice hitches, some desperate amount of mirth tipping up the corner of his mouth, gaze lowering despite prior worry.

Hhn. "So that I can rescue him. To do that, I needed you to lie for me, and I came here to see if there was anything I could use. That is all." He skims his attention back to Deckard, mouth going into a line, before he adds, his voice tinged with some strange anger, "Please, he is— he used to be your friend."

The fear Bella perceives is gratifying. The imbalance of power pleasing in a way that doesn't speak well of her supposed reformation. But she was coming home to read and maybe smoke a little reefer and just unwind and instead some sliced up frog from her work has to come trapsing into her house while armed. There are some lines Bella will not stand to have crossed. Not in her home, not any more. This was her space, goddamn it.

Francois' story is simply too elaborate to be anything but true, at least in some aspects. She trusts he is not an Institute spy or, rather, that he is not a spy for the Institute. That he is worked under the Institutes auspices and is a spy, but for other parties… that she can and does believe is likely the case. That or he's stupidly gone into this alone. Which, considering his resort to following her and now appealing to Deckard's better nature… might not be out of the question.

This bullshit about there being multiple Teo's, apparently spawning like cockroaches, doesn't make Bella a happy camper however. And a split second after Francois address Deckard, Bella interjects sharply: "Cut that shit! You're talking to me. You are answering my questions," she gives the gun a slight waggle in the air, not exactly very intimidating or even very wise, but she's wants to remind him of the actual constitution of forces in play at the moment.

"Which of these… whatevers… consciousness states is the one that kidnapped and shot me?" is the question she wants answered next. The reason why she wants to know… may be unstated, but is unlikely to be pleasant.

Being scrutinized by Deckard at a distance is not unlike being a lump of brown booger being scrutinized by a grackle whose main concern is whether or not you're edible. His eyes are soulless rings of color in the gloom, strange and unblinking, interested to no positive end. Surely.
He doesn't look like the sort of thing that is likely to be friends with any iteration of Teo, and past some broody second-thought in the shadow of Bella's assumption of control, he doesn't look likely to reach in just yet. Even Francois knows to attribute a past tense to his plea. So, "Attends une minute," says Deckard to Francois, quietly and at length, "I'm kind of turned on."

Momentary silent fury for the man just over there is supersided, here, by pettier irritation for her interjection, setting his jaw — but no protest, respect for the weapon in her hands, at least, and her capacity to pull its trigger. His legs fold beneath him a little, the beginnings of attempting to get up off the fucking floor. "I don't know," is at least honest, pitching for truth-telling to maybe win him points. That hand that had been silently holding out for help or understanding or something resorts to rubbing its side against his mouth, soothing sting and blood taste with the confirmation that no red comes away with it. "Probably Ghost, the future one. He's mercenary and the reason why Teo has enemies like you, mademoiselle."

Not that his friends are much better, Flint Deckard, says Francois' next check up on the other man, not deigning— !!— to respond to unhelpful French and the English that rattles on after it. "I wanted to see if you were truly Institute, or if you could help me." This is where he sets about getting up, and short of actual bullets firing, he will, on his feet, a hand out to touch the wall directly behind him as if to steady himself, in case of a ninja concussion he didn't know he had.

Bella isn't turbobitch enough to demand Francois stay on his knees, though it would be a lie to say she didn't at least flirt with the idea. Still, she wants to reward his cooperation, so she contents herself with a slight narrow of the eyes, indicating that his getting up is a matter of her largess… or at least that's what she's trying to indicate. Likely enough it just makes her look extra mad.

"Could help you? Yes. Will? That's a whole other story. I am not interested in getting further involved in the convolutions of you and the rest of your screwed up little circle jerk. I am interested in the safety of this living situation," which is an adorably impersonal way of saying 'Flint too', "and my own continued health and well being. How will helping you contribute to any of these? How will it contribute any more than… than shooting you and tying up a loose end?"

As for what Deckard says, Bella does not deign to even look at him. Peanuts to the peanut gallery.

The living situation (and Flint) form a static backdrop, all greys and browns and breathing that's finally starting to ease slow and steady again. Deckard evolved to watch, so that is what he does, right hand lifted again to feel carefully after the thick of a raw swallow. A hard blink follows once his eyes have dulled out after that, damage assessed and pushed to the back of his mind in the time it takes him to light up again.

He is sweaty and now cold, shirt clinging dark under his jacket, scruffy hair flattened to one side. Bella has his gun.

And still he stands there near the wall, idle under a lack of direction and dimly biased as the dog he resents all implications that he is. Still eyeing Francois with dislike and deeper mistrust. The kind that spawns out've a guy riding up out of the desert and shooting you in the heart once he's said hullo.

"You dislike convolution, and you work for the Institute?" A step forward has lift off from any reliance on the solid bedroom wall behind him, hands coming to hang neutrally at his sides, looking ordinary and unlikely for breaking and entering, spy-games between Institute and other parties, or being alive since 1918. Another step. "Whatever you have been through, I am not a threat to your living situation, or your health and well-being. I also do not believe you will shoot me. A lot of mess for a neutral outcome, I think." Which may or may not be a mistake on the list of mistakes he's accumulating.

Or the vocalisation of it. "I can give you money, if you would like further reason. You sign papers and never see me again. I'm not alone in what I seek to do," he adds, suddenly and relevantly, as if only just realising how all of this must look, and why it would be easy to shoot him here (and that Deckard would probably just watch).

"Flint should have stake in this," he adds, but doesn't look away from the woman as he says so, raising an eyebrow. "We discuss a man who would drag him back from similar situations. Has. If he would care to know. You are not in jail now because of this Teo," is compulsively snapped towards the other man, now, despite Bella's prior demands, despite his own reserve at first to obey. "Back in April, he saved you, I was there. Tell her."

There is an impulse, only barely overcome, to bark back a defense of her involvement with the Institute. - She didn't like it there! She hated it, she wanted out! How dare you make assumptions about her life situation! - But she bites it back because that would mean admitting that he had upset her. That his opinion of her character somehow mattered. And she will not be so weak as to worry about this man liking her. She would take his submission instead. Healthy? No. But you don't live in New York for your longevity. You live in New York because you're a goddamn New Yorker.

"You are really about the smallest of messes I've ever made," Bella says, tone on the sneering end of condescension. Someone get this woman a drink. "I don't want money. And what Flint does is what Flint does. If he wants to ask me to be involved, we'll do so in private. But I've got an idea so…

"Which Laudini - exactly - is the one you care to save?"

Flint's hackles lift again at the snap, as nakedly defensive as Bella is armored for all that the intensity of his reactions is mitigated by his position. Namely: aside and out of the way. But his teeth show and his eyes flash and all of that, nose rankled hard at the bridge. Even with his memory blotched fuzzy and white with deliberate mold, he remembers having made good on various debts owed. More often than not in blood.

This most recent one is a little hazier than the others, though. Enough that it gives him pause independent of Bella's edge in the vague direction of 'coming around.' He doesn't tell her. But he does list grudgingly into subtitles. Ones that she can't read.

« What do they want him for? »

There's a minutely helpless shake to Francois' head, though whatever denial it signifies is unclear. He pauses, mistrustful of Deckard's chosen method of communication — or rather, mistrustful for the small shimmer of hope it invokes in him. Francois has schooled his expression so that it doesn't show.

"«Experimentation,»" he says, which sounds a lot like the English version of that, just with the addition of fruity accent. "«They wanted the memories that Ghost had, but Ghost escaped, so they keep him. The other one was prepped for surgery when he was found. God only knows why.»" His eyes are clear and stare direct, but his voice has a tense uncertainty to it, an anger for something bigger than any three people in this room could possibly invoke. "If you could see what they do— "
This in English, now, meant for both of them. "I want to rescue the one that is the mix of both."

Oh no. No no no. Bella will not stand for that shit. "What the fuck is that? Do you have any idea how rude it is to speak in another language in front of someone?" Her censure is turned upon Deckard as much if not more than upon Francois. "What did you say. Don't bullshit me. I will not cooperate unless you and one hundred percent straight with me."

It's to Francois that she turns her glare. Maybe she wants him to tell her because it's him she wants to coerce.

Maybe she doesn't entirely trust Flint to tell her the truth.

"I said I'd see more action behind bars again than I do with you," Deckard snaps suddenly through his teeth, tension hewn hard through the stark cut of his profile aside after Bella and her gun. His gun.

Their gun?

All they need now are a pack of jam-smeared toddlers and a truck up on blocks in the front yard. In the meantime he has pent up frustration and his ever-increasingly-ill-temper to keep him warm through another rattling adrenaline shiver, relevant to nothing. "You're going to leave the other one."

Francois next breath in feels a little like there are shards of glass involved in the movement, and he couldn't articulate why even if anyone saw fit to ask. It's neither good nor bad, escalated anxiety and maybe insult, in the way his gaze swerves away from Deckard to study the ground. "He asked what they want him for," he says to Bella, first, looking more at the gun between them than at the woman's eyes. "I said they wanted his memory of the future. Without Ghost, they keep him instead. Other experimentation also. Things you might know of — I don't know."

Another sweep of his tongue against the broken inside of his cheek. The landing of Deckard's fist is currently coming up pink on the outside — it'll rot into yellows and greens come tomorrow morning, but he resists the urge to touch. He nods, then, to Deckard, a twitching motion that comes across more like a proud head toss than bowing concession — but it means the same thing. He'd leave the other one.

A roll of the eyes is what Bella has to spare for Deckard. But she can't afford to simply dismiss him now that he's started naming terms. Dammit, she was working on that! She sidles around, walking a curve, drawing closer to where Flint is. Presenting them as something like a front, and entering into the negotiations. "You get your copy. I want Ghost. You say he's gone, or something? Get him back. Get him back, keep him in one place, and hand him over to me. Promise that, and I'll help you."

That Deckard is dense enough to look blankly shocked in the background would probably disappoint him if he had a third person vantage point. As things are he has the general appearance of one recently cock-slapped. His much-abused lungs collapse shut like a book after a harsh exhale, worn-down exasperation muffled into silence. Life is hard.

Francois can't help but automatically sweep a look towards Flint in the wake of Bella's offer, as if to see what page the other man happens to be on, before meeting Bella's stare again with the kind of hard and icy resentment he should be keeping in check when there's a pistol aimed roughly for him, seeing past it, seeing through it, not seeing it at all. He doesn't want to agree. He also doesn't want to agree with Deckard making a shadow just over there, but— "You will have to lie on the psych evaluation also," he feels the need to add, gallow's humour.

A hand comes up, presses high against his chest, thumb edging along the ridge of scarring just above his collar.

"I'll take that as a pledge," Bella says, "an enforceable verbal contract that you do not want to default on." And she finally lowers the gun. She keeps ahold of it, though. A glance is tossed towards Deckard, grim but consultory - she's really asking his opinion: "Are we done here?" The question rather pointedly not directed at Francois, who apparently doesn't get a say in this. Maybe if he just called ahead next time, let them know he needed to break in? A little warning would have been nice.

Deckard's opinion looks a lot like cold-burning anger. There's a finely focused frigidity to his glare, difficult at it is to attribute vivid human emotion to a visage that is essentially two wan rings of blue saturated against a lesser assortment of rumpled greys and browns. He doesn't answer her.

And Francois isn't glaring at anyone, his attention shifted away and down for the time it takes for Deckard to not answer the woman, feeling very done here, if anyone were to ask him. Which they aren't. After that second, he looks up, eyebrows arching before he's making for the door — he'll see Bella at work, surely. He leaves Deckard's journal lying on the ground. He leaves his own pistol skittered into the corner of the room to contribute to Deckard's personal collection of arms.

He leaves.

Flint's look is returned with a unabashed bristle, but she stoops and sets the gun on the ground, giving it a push that sends it sliding over to the nearest wall where it stops with a mild 'clunk'. No accidental firing, luckily, though she really should have uncocked it first. See, this is why she needs lessons. No sense of gun safety.

"What?" she inquires, more icily than even she intends, as she returns his look, "if you have a problem with something, tell me. I'm willing to compromise with you, but not with him." Bella does not like dealing with Europeans that poke into her apartment. It has never once ended well.

Deckard's unhappy. He's also quiet again — immune to her return Look largely on account've the lack of eyeballs there are to float in the empty dishes hollowed out in the front of her skull.
"Deal's made," he says at length, the first movement he's made in a while a pair of slow paces to stoop and recollect his journal. "There's a contract."

Bella closes her eyes, taking a deep breath, this time not to push back fear, but rather anger. It's not Deckard she's pissed at, so she refuses to throw that emotional force in his direction. She'd rather bottle it up. Save it for later. When she needs it. When it will be useful.

It's to help guide her steps over to him that her eyes open once more. She reaches out towards his shoulder, dipped in a stoop. "I'm sorry for… for acting like that. But I- I am sick of not feeling safe. I needed to put my foot down. I didn't intend for you to get trodden on in the process.

"There's no deal," Bella insists, with the force of one arguing a case to more than one person, "that I won't reconsider at your request. This is no exception."

The book feels flimsier than he remembers. The paper has had time to age; the corners are dog-eared and all manner of thumbs not his own have gone pawing through the pages. The cover is worn. Flint occupies himself with it too intently, giving it an unnecessary pass over in search of fresh damage before he glances to the hand she has on his shoulder.

He is predictable in renewed mistrust. Also in his disinclination to talk about it anymore. Easily identified by the fact that he doesn't — talk about it anymore, the angle of his shoulder hard under her hand once he's upright.

Bella doesn't have the temerity to look wounded. But she doesn't have the tact to back off, not yet. He can't easily get more silent, though… knock on wood. Her fingers hook, finding the gap in his shoulder bones, and tries to lever him to face her. Her mouth has formed that set line, that regressive little 'put out' face, though her eyes lack the petulance that usually accompanies it.

"Don't be a little bitch, Flint," is maybe not the best way to make someone feel warm and fuzzy towards you, but experimental data shows that the popular aphorism regarding the fly catching qualities of vinegar and honey is not quite accurate, "I need you with me on this. I am not interested in alienating you, all right? Speak your mind, please. I talk to you, you said so. Talk to me."

'Little,' is really the only inaccuracy in her accusation — a fact of which he is clearly aware in the way he fills her space once she's forced the turn. But he's loomed before, and any real effort he's making to intimidate with aggression now is tempered by an aimless kind of dejection.

Also the fact that he does her the (eventual) courtesy of speaking. And the protracted courtesy of thinking before he speaks prior to that. "I don't know why I exist anymore," is, unfortunately, a marked departure from any previous ability he might've demonstrated to narrow a problem down into manageable terms. Frank despite himself, he is self-aware enough for embarrassment to line in at the corner of his eyes over an uneasy grin. "I dunno. I want the other Teo."

"I admit," Bella says, a touch dryly, "that I am confused as to which one is the 'other'." Her hand slips down from his shoulder, smoothing out the front of his jacket before patting, once, twice, then migrating to the crook of her elbow, forming a locked band with her arms, just under her chest. "But what I can do… I'll do.

"Exist for me, if you haven't got anything else," is the resolution she suggests to his grand problem - a quick fix likely much, much easier said than done, "God knows you'd have a tough time finding anyone else willing to tolerate you. To say nothing of more." Than tolerance, is the implication, though eternally, frustratingly, the exact nature of that 'more' is undefined.

"I'm tired, but I don't think I can sleep easily… not after that," she tilts her head to the side, in the direction of the door, "join me on the couch? I'd appreciate the company."

Mutual feeling is tired through the length of Flint's face, but some of the heat has had time to ebb out of his glare and the distinction between angles and hollows here and there is less harsh. He had been leaning towards brooding — trying to make some kind of decision, but contact and misdirection couchwards are enough to defer deeper consideration until later. When there's no one else in his room to watch him think. He nods.

For now sitting around awkwardly on opposite sides of the couch sounds remarkably okay.

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