Toxic Influence


bella_icon.gif deckard_icon.gif

Scene Title Toxic Influence
Synopsis Wherein Bella expresses reservations about the soundness of Flint's social circle and Flint fails to be convinced that there is a difference between getting better and feeling better.
Date February 7, 2010

Bella's Office

Metaphorical dust only has been gathering in the office of Dr. Isabella Sheridan, though metaphorically gathered it has, with postponed and otherwise rerouted appointments, as well as failures to renew and plain old unanswered 'leave a message after the beep' entreaties. As far as therapeutic moves go, this is a dick one, but Bella has had things on her mind, enough of them that dealing with things on other peoples' minds has appeared to be quite beyond her of late.

But all things, good or bad, must come to an end, the cows must come home to pasture, so on and so on. Bella is back in her office once more, dressed in a snug, forest green turtleneck and light brown courderoys, looking better fit for a fireside than work, and maybe that's where she'd rather, considering the below freezing temperature. For the first fifteen minutes the only-occasionally-heated-to-avoid-frozen-pipes apartment makes Bella's breath fog, but the heat kicks in soon enough and she is able to next in her usual chair, with her usual station on her usual radio playing - the image of routine. She's missed this.

Winter in the desert in Mexico was pleasantly chilly in the morning at its worst, and non-existent at best. Odds are, if not for the holidays he'd have forgotten it was supposed to be cold at all. And now there's this.

Teeth still set against the cold numbing his fingers beneath worn out gloves and a black peacoat that's on the passably respectable end of shabby, Deckard doesn't linger long outside the door. He can see she's in there, through sunglasses and wood and metal, and wastes little time ruminating on the stoop before he turns the handle and lets himself in at a sidestep. Fine glimpses of frost are melting fast through the wool at his shoulders and in the wiry grizzle of his hair.

He looks ok.

Tired, maybe. But not too thin, and not too clean cut or too run down when he crosses the mock apartment for his usual station without waiting to be invited in.

Bella's smile is certainly warm enough, in defiance of the bad weather. Things may be heading towards uncontrollable shitstorm at her second job, but this… this she can do. She unfolds her legs from under her and gets to her feet, moving over to the radio to switch it off. She drifts back to her chair and takes a proper seat in it, crossing her legs and clasping her knee in both hands, head tilting.

"How've you been, Flint?" she begins.

"Myself," says Flint, which might be a less meaningful thing for a person who hadn't been possessed by an immortal French genetic healing parasite to say. He punctuates his lack of immediate elaboration with the shrug of his coat down off his shoulders, which he then flops down into his usual seat ahead of a more deliberate sit for the rest of him. The sunglasses are tipped off last, dark lenses turned over once in his left hand before catching into a cagey rest between both palms in his lap. He looks to the kitchen, already long face even longer in profile.

"Abigail left me. So did the healing ability. One of the previous owners shot me to get it out. How've you been?"

Bella's face naturally conforms to a picture of gentle concern. How is she? "I'm well. Thinking of writing a paper for a psychiatric journal," she smiles, a touch impishly, "Don't let that dissuade you from speaking openly, though." Question answered, she steers the discussion back to Deckard. "I imagine you must have some fairly complicated feelings. I don't want to imagine, though. I'd like you to tell me what happened, and what you think about it. And, more important, how it makes you feel." He'd better be able to articulate himself. If not, it may be time to cajole another journal out of him!

Bella's face conforms into just the right amount of concern all by itself, and Deckard misses it. He misses it because he is looking at the kitchen, and because he is looking at people on the other side of it in the apartment nextdoor and because he cannot see faces at all, save maybe for the barest suggestion of translucent muscle translated soundlessly into fluid feeling over whatever they're having an argument about in there. Maybe the chia pet leaked. Flint hooks his glasses absently onto his collar, edges crisper than they would be if he'd ironed it himself beneath the grey lapels of his shoddier suit.

"She said it's too soon. Teo told her about the future he came back from, where we were married ten years from now and she was less annoying and I was less of an asshole." That same raised hand pushes up into loose skin and uneven stubble around the join of neck and narrow jaw, blunt nails raking against the grain of dusky brown peppered with grey. "So she said now's not the time, which is probably true. Then we had sex. I feel shitty."

What Deckard sees and doesn't see is less important than the practice. Practice which allows her to cover what would be a momentary but prominent scowl on a less controlled set of features, a scowl brought on by the mention of one Teo Laudini. Even after Deckard healed her, even well after she should have healed on her own, that experience is still a pain in her leg from time to time.

And, thanks to her practice, there is no outward sign of this bad association. And for the best, because this is not the time and place to deal with her psychological problems. It's his psychological problems that are on the table. She can go get herself a therapist if she really needs to work on it. She simply nods, receptive as always. "What parts do you feel shitty about? Or, maybe I should say, the most shitty about? The breakup? The sex? That the sex came after the breakup? Or all this, framed by this prophetic future." Far past the point of worrying about paranoid delusions at this point - the healing was real, so she'll swallow the rest of the insane stories.

Silence. He's thinking about his answer or he's thinking about whether or not he wants to answer. Either way, he eventually looks over enough to size her skeleton up across from him, blue-white bones rendered in real time around the twitch and pump of heart muscle and lungs and looped bowel. His already dubious focus slacks off further still when a subtle adjustment screens skin back in over bone, with turtleneck and slacks left off the menu for now. He managed to wait three and a half minutes before looking at her naked. That's kind of like self-control, right?

"I don't think I ever really did it for her. She never came onto me. Never touched me or — " 'kissed me' sounds whiny and weak in his head and he edits it neatly out, letting on shoulder shift into an awkward shrug instead while his hand stays up around his mouth, half masking his distraction. "I always initiated. She asked a couple of times, I guess. Not really the same. I think she loves me, but more like a really great dog than someone you want to fuck. I'm guessing from your turtleneck the answer here is still no, by the way."

If she knew how long he waited, she'd probably be very impressed indeed. Maybe he ought to mention it, see how well it goes over? She blinks at the comment about her sweater. She glances down at herself, as if she had forgotten she was wearing it, or at least what she was wearing. Her brows tilt, indicating the scraped-knee equivalent of hurt feelings. "It's cold," she says, by way of excuse. As if to illustrate, she wraps her arms around her middle, hugging herself. "You weren't in here earlier, before the heat kicked in!"

Arms still wrapped about her, though loosened a bit from the initial self-embrace. "I don't want to read too much into the words you use, it's an irritating psychiatric habit, but I have to ask - a dog? Really great or no, I don't think you ought to be in a position where you are made to think of yourself as a dog. Is there something to your saying that? Be serious, honest with yourself."

No answer on her revising the 'no sleeping with clients' policy. One can assume his garment-related guess was, in all significant ways, correct.

"I dunno." Ever a popular answer with Flint, who steps over his own social dumbfuckery without batting an eye. Not that he was blinking much before, pale-washed stare bit deep into the empty sockets in Bella's skull with the kind of goshawkish, inhuman intensity that prickles nerves and makes little hairs stand up all on their own. "That's my role. Abby, Teo. Brian. Muldoon. My sister." He shakes his head slightly and his glare fleets back towards the kitchen, right hand finally felled back into his lap with the left while frustration shows in a pull of stringy muscle through the hollow of his jaw.

"I need a job."

As far as flares go, that one evidently doesn't care enough about its own existence to bother being subtle. "Do you think I'm getting better?"

Bella answers with a firmness that makes it sound like, even if reality had evidence to the contrary, it should think twice before trying to contradict her. In a word: conviction.

"Yes. You have suffered setbacks, lead a life that is not conducive to the kind of life most people are raised to want or seek. You live in circumstances that are often direct detriments to your psychological welfare. But you are, definitively, more emotionally literate, conversant and articulate than when you first came through that door. You are gathering a tool kit, one you can eventually use, if you so choose, to rebuild your life into something you'd be comfortable staying in. The hardest task, after all that, will be figuring out: what is better? For you, what would be better?"

Bella gives Deckard a sober look, and its back to the questions. "Why do you need a job?"

Flint is quiet, in turn. He's sunk deeper into his chair, shoulders slouched and head turned to better accommodate his looking at things not her while they are having what he feels like is more Serious Conversation. Or she is, anyway. For the moment, he's just sitting and looking closed off, skepticism no more a presence in the hard angles that define his face than acceptance. He manages to listen to her answer and file it away without agreeing or disagreeing out loud or otherwise.

"So I have something to do," is the eventual answer regarding a job and why he needs one. "And so I don't have to rely on fucking…charity." Like he always does anyway.

"I think I'm dumber than before. I don't think I can speak French anymore." Again, random. His thoughts scatter and so does his attention, queer eyes raking around the floor with no readily apparent aim. "I don't feel better."

"Getting better and feeling better are often not the same thing. For a good stretch of the therapeutic process they tend, in fact, to be inversely related," Bella explains, releasing herself from her own clutches to gesture with her hands, illustrating the inarticulable excess of her wisdom by motions in the air. "Breaking the cycle of a pathology is necessarily uncomfortable. But it's always worth it in the end." Her hands settle, and that dreadful Seriousness fades somewhat. She smiles, "Of course I'd say that, seeing as this is my profession. But I mean it, Flint. Better doesn't mean feeling better. Now…" the shrink tilts her head, "I think a job would be smart. It might help you meet new people. I think that might help. I don't want to make judgments on too little evidence, but I worry that some of your relationships may have toxic elements."

"I'm a murderer. A graverobber and an alcoholic lech. These are people that have saved my life. Hid me when there was a price on my head." Still looking off at the floor at a strange angle, frigid eyes unblinking, Deckard doesn't quite look convinced even as he's clearly entertaining the possibility. Lately fingers have been getting easier to point. "Abigail goes to church every Sunday. One of them is a pastor."

Hey! Bella knows a pastor! She nods, though it's clear that she's not convinced either. She keeps at it: "I understand, and I'm not saying you should forget your loyalties. I'm saying it will not hurt to meet new people. People who won't remind you of how you feel you've failed, how much you owe them. Flint, it sounds facile, but you need to think better of yourself. You must believe you deserve to get better, since you're here."

"Mmm," says Deckard after a pause long enough to make lukewarm agreement seem more unconvincing than it might be otherwise. He's quiet again after that, thoughts and expression kept equally blank and/or private for a span while he studies Bella's legs through her pants and probably succeeds in forgetting any further protest he might have made. Silence prevails.

Bella folds her hands in her lap, a motion towards conclusion. "A job is a good first step. Do you need any help with it? I'm not sure I've got connections to speak of, but if I can be of any assistance, I will. I do think this is the right direction for you," she nods, "We'll meet again next week?"

"I know a guy," doesn't seem all that promising for its vagueness, especially considering some of the career lines Deckard's placed himself in over the past couple've years. The brief eye contact that flicks after it is more natural than anything else he's managed through this meeting though, almost affording him the air of someone recently snapped out've a haze and back into reality. He even rubs at an eye before he pushes to his feet, coat trailing behind at the end of his left arm. "If I can shank an old lady for the cash before then."

"Better old than young," Bella says, "Enough of them and there might be some social security left for us when we retire." The shrink gets to her feet, moving over to the kitchen counter, one hand lighting on the edge, "Take care, Flint. And start trying to think better of yourself. If I'm not impressed by your progress by next week, I'll be giving you another assignment, and you don't want that, do you?"

Flint fails to look all that fearful. He fails, actually, to look much of anything. There's a lift at the corner of his mouth and a glance after her and the kitchen while he hefts his coat on and straightens out the collar. Then he's out've immediate sight on his way to let himself out. Down the hall and eventually back out into the cold.

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