bella_icon.gif deckard4_icon.gif

Scene Title Uncomfortable
Synopsis For the first time, something compels Bella to pin Deckard down in a setting more to his taste.
Date June 09, 2010

Staten Island

Property values in suburban Staten Island aren't want they used to be.

Cul-de-sac after cul-de-sac is thick with rotten wood, dead branches and debris; broken glass glitters in the gutters and empty windows gawp over rusted bicycles and withering husks of old garbage cans. No slush remains to clog the streets, but murky runoff still rushes here and there along the curb. The grass hasn't grown back up around leaning mailboxes because it hasn't had a chance to. 3410 Blackslip Rd looks like pretty much every other abandoned two story dwelling around, give or take some sinkholes around the roof. A few of the windows have been haphazardly boarded over with wood collected from neighboring houses, but the front door is open.

As in, there isn't one.

Across the adjacent street, a brisk wind off the water has a cool, beachy stink to it and fluffy white clouds push past quickly overhead, like they have somewhere to be. Laughter and loud music from one of the other houses blurs in and out with the wind.

The inside's more of a disaster than the outside, wooden grey walls ribbed bare of wallpaper in every cramped room, ceilings peeling around a soggy hole the size of a bath tub, with the cracked, claw-footed tub itself half-filled with water in an empty office space. Everything else is bone dry, save perhaps for Flint's overcoat currently stretched between two dusty chairs in the kitchen. Footfalls creak heavy overhead and ragged curtains stir listlessly at a shattered window.

But at least it doesn't smell.

Bella had to double check the address Deckard gives her, just to be sure the location that showed up on GoogleMaps wasn't some sort of mistake, like a commonly named road in the wrong zip code or something. The region of town Deckard agreed to meet her in is, upon initial inspection, not savory. But then again, it makes a certain kind of sense, considering Deckard's temperament.

It also makes sense that Bella has an Institute van drive her within a half block of the location and watch out for her safety as she approaches the dilapidated building. It's about as bad as she imagined and thus even worse to enter. The psychiatrist stares up at its peeling face before making her way to the already-open front door and stepping inside. It's with a somewhat forced humor that she calls into the house's depths: "Honey, I'm home!"

Glimpses of sustainable human habitation are visible here and there further inside: a portable propane burner in the kitchen, a can of soup and a bag of what looks like dry catfood in an open cabinet. At a balmy sixty degrees, breezy wind, dim lighting and groaning architecture aside, it's comfortable inside. Comfortable enough that Flint doesn't need his coat. Or his Company suit, which proves to be hanging over the stairwell's rickety banister, middling grey brushed with dust but otherwise unscathed.

He's in jeans, boots and a navy blue t-shirt when he navigates his way down the narrow stairwell to seek her out amidst the wreckage, chilly eyes too blue through long slants of shadow. Silt and detritus carried in by weather that's already passed variably rustles and crunches underfoot. Little white rat bones, splintery grey twigs and blue porcelain. If he looks surprised to see her, it's summed up in a blank glance and a pause to say "Hey," on his way past her towards the kitchen.

Bella looks about the house with an attitude somewhere between a woman looking at real estate, and a tourist in the Paris catacombs. "Have you… set up shop here, Flint?" she asks, "I hope you don't intend on bringing any unpaid ladies home to this place." She follows him into the kitchen, keeping her feet rather close together, and frequently glancing down to check for nails. "This isn't me calling a session, actually," she admits - admitting (by way of allusion), also, that every time she's seem him since last time, it was her coming to him. A gunshot wound can really changes the dynamics of a working relationship. "I had something to tell you, and to ask you after I do."

Some shuffing around for an empty tin of tuna and a warier (and more direct) glance back at Bella later, Flint retrieves the sack of knockoff Meow Mix, thumbs open a corner and tips it down to tumble dry crunchy bits helter skelter into the tin and onto the surrounding counter space. Thump goes the bag back across the counter when he's done. Mrowrll? goes the one-eyed ginger tom who replaces it, all patchy fur and ribs ridged rawboned along the spine. He sounds appreciative, if you're inclined to believe that cats can be bothered into appreciation. Past a quick run of coarse hand down ginger spine and lifted tail, Flint doesn't look like he cares overmuch one way or the other. Much more ambivalent about life in his natural environment. Maybe.

His silence probably counts as an Okay. He looks at her again anyway, expectant as he's likely to be while the cat pecks primly after pieces of vomit red and orange that fell outside the tin first.

Bella does not coo or approach the cat. She wouldn't even if it were a well groomed purebred, unless she thought it would have a positive effect on the owner. She examines it, and then Deckard, taking the cat as interesting only in its being part of the continued expression of Deckard's personality.

The shrink is a little overdressed for the temperature, in a peacoat and her black beret. She lifts a gloved hand to her mouth as she clears her throat. "I've been contacted by Abigail," she says, cutting pretty swiftly to the chase, "She was making inquiries about you. I… am frankly not sure that our mutual employers would like me doing this. I didn't inform them, either, in case they disapproved. I don't really give so much a shit about that at the moment." This last sentence has a barely audible but still clearly perceptible waver in pitch. For a moment, she was something close to emotional, beyond her ability to suppress all signs. "She wants to know if you're alive," Bella continues, voice returning to normal, "I want to know what, if anything, you want me to tell her."


Caught off guard enough that it takes him longer than usual to stop himself looking like he just got hosed in the face, Flint blinks unevenly and turns his attention back across the far half of his decaying kitchen. It looks a lot like the half they're standing in, sans therapist, cat and crook. Brownish grey. Open drawers and rotting cabinet space. Dirty counters. A fridge he doesn't dare open and can see into anyway.

His teeth show, his jaw hollows before a cut of stringy muscle from ear to mandible. His cat crunches ronch ronch ronch through one fishy bit of crisp at a time, tiny scars dug black into his velvety nose.
At length, tension funnels into a sketch of his fingers after a tarnished fork and then at the back of his neck.

"How'd she know to contact you?" isn't the worst question he could ask in return, but it's probably up there.

Bella keeps her arms clasped around herself while Deckard makes his first gut reaction to this news. In all her clothes, she should be warm. But she insists on acting like it's chilly. Her brows furrow very slightly as he poses his question. "I don't know," she answers, "Honestly, I'm a little nervous about all of this. But I felt it would be wrong to keep it from you. Her I'm not concerned with. She's not my client. But if she was willing to call me," which is to say without saying 'knowing what she might know about me', "It's important to her, and what's important to her… I thought it might be important to you."

One snarled riposte after another discarded in a second slivered show of glossy enamel, Deckard sinks gradually into a defensive hunch behind cat and counter, brow hooded at a hard level and bristled lower jaw ajut. He looks more like himself here, awkward hesitance and stiff shoulders shaken off in favor of dust and clutter and open rafters. Also: quietly, restlessly angry — although. Not the same cold-searing fury that saw him on top of her in an office not all that long ago or far away. More of a miserable controlled burn.

"Tell her I'm fine," gravelled out without enthusiasm, he scuffs curled knuckles to counter with force enough to abrade both in an audible scrape. "That's probably all she wants to know. You cold?"

"Hm?" Bella says, taken aback at his question. It's a little irregular. "Cold? Uh… no, I don't think so." She smiles a little bashfully as she notices her posture, and lets her hands fall. "Must be a stress related tic. I'm sorry. I shouldn't bring it with me when we talk." She moves forward, braving the cat's presence and setting gloved fingers against the edge of the counter. "I can do that," she says, "But in case she wants to know more, asks me other questions, what would you want me to tell her?"

"Why are you stressed?"

The second question presses pestle to mortar after the first. It's distracted as it is direct — the first thing to wrest through his teeth while he grinds his nose privately around in his personal problems.

"I dunno what she expects me to tell her. 'Sorry I killed people. Maybe we can do lunch sometime.'" Nearly as boxy with angles as the rickety house around them, Flint sweeps his cat off the counter with a back-handed shove that's just short of injurious, halting the obnoxious ronch crackle ronch in one. "Tell her I shaved, am dating a former supermodel and enrolled in surfing classes."

Bella blinks at the unceremonious de-countering of the cat. No biggy, though. They land on their feet. Tough love. She answers his question first, so as to avoid the ready segue into more questions. "Work," is her simple, truthful, and entirely uninformative answer. She's learned reticence from the best. Stare into the Flint, the Flint stares back.

"Really?" Bella says, "I realize you want to joke about this, but I also realize that means it's a sore topic for you. I won't press you on it, but I do want to make sure you're taking this seriously. If you want to cut this tie, I think you should mean it. Closure, with yourself if not with her."

"Plus," Bella adds, offsetting the seriousness with a smile, "If I tell her that, she'll just think I'm being an obtuse bitch. Which would be unfair, since you'd be the one actually guilty of obtuse bitchiness."

This cat does land crouched on its feet. A little awkwardly, granted, and with an irritable shake of one dust-smeared paw before it starts looking to measure the distance to jump obnoxiously back up again. Evidently it's used to rough handling. For some reason.

Also wily enough to wait to leap until Flint's turned his back. On the counter. Not to Bella but for the second it takes to round the corner on her, all 6'2" of him and 5'4" of her to bristle down upon at close range. Fortunately, like the house, he isn't saturated with the kind of stench presumptuous noses have come to expect. He smells like coffee and dust. And maybe a little bit like he could use a shower.

"She cut the tie," he says, for some reason finding it imperative to do so while invading Bella's personal space. "And if she knows who you are, she already knows you're a bitch."

Bella takes a single step back, measured, deliberate and ostensibly unafraid. A reassertion of that very personal space. Boundaries, Flint, boundaries. She looks up at him, lifting a hand to adjust her beret, then to simply remove it, holding it in both hands before her, though low, not in any way indicating a shield. She's not afraid of him, not really. She is, at most, afraid that she might become so. At most.

"Be that as it may, I'm a very forthright bitch," Bella returns, chin held high, "Obtuseness is not a quality I want to be associated with."

Narrowed eyes acutely tuned to slender philanges plucking at beret and the subtle tip of her skull after it, Flint mulls an unbalanced beat before he settles back on his bootheels enough to cede her the ground gained in that one step.

It takes him a while to do or say anything else.

The cat goes ronch ronch ronch and dust turns slowly over in sunlight filtered in bands through a half-boarded window. "She didn't ask you to ask me. She asked you. Tell her whatever you want."

Bella actually scowls. She looks just as she feels: like she's like to say something harsh, something angry. She might even want to shout it. She looks frustrated. Where this came from, who knows. Bella herself is not sure if she's affecting the emotion and, even if so, if the affect is effecting her. Her lips purse in a look that her father would recognize instantly - his little girl fuming over not having her way.

But even when she was small, she knew to let the feeling pass, or to push it down, in favor of the more canny calm that follows. If you really want your way, you've got to get it for yourself. "I told you, Flint, I don't care about her. I don't want to tell her anything. If you are really that ambivalent, however, I'll let her know about your ambivalence. Would that suit you?"

"I'm not ambivalent," says Flint, quicker, snakeier and more responsibly than he probably should. "I'm uncomfortable about a relationship I fucked over." A spectral glance up and down her person while he resettles his weight over to one side is the second warning she gets that he's not just being honest for the sake of being honest, tick down, tick up and done. "Why are you uncomfortable?"

"I'm not going to go into it with you," Bella replies, tartly. Too tartly - she's starting to spar with him. Her aspect shifts from constrained frustration to haughtiness. There is, for an instant, a lift of the right corner of her lips. A smile, more than a little mean and definitely challenging. "I'll discuss it with my therapist."

Flint's grizzled head draws back a few degrees out've its usual unconsciously hangdog stoop to resquare itself over his shoulders at a slightly revelatory remove instead. Like he's not 100% sure he's hearing what he's hearing. Or hearing it how he's hearing it. His eyes stay on her when aquiline reflex tilts an overlarge ear in to better measure — just so. And still there's no discernable difference in her tone.

There is a definite, unmitigated tartness there. She is being tart to him.

Not entirely sure what to do with this information that is relevant to anything or suitably smooth, he knits his brows and gives her an even more sideways look instead, less flustered than he is suddenly
terminally curious at her expense.

Bella's brows lift, as much an challenge to his curiosity as it is an invitation. But then again, with holding is always already an invitation to peek into the holder's hands. "If that concludes our business?" she asks, in that way that dignity demands you take her at her word, rather than play her game, if one has the resolve (or the pretension to dignity) "I don't want to keep you from whatever you're doing here. Renovations, I hope."

"Did it just get hotter in here?" Flint asks very seriously, expression unaltered despite him having lifted a hand to point down at the ramshackle space they're in. "I feel like it's hotter."

It's confirmation, in a way. That they're done and that he's not going to suddenly fall (all the way) off the sanity wagon and try to stuff her down the remaining toilet upstairs. He also takes another step back and aside, ginger tom skirting between his boots on its way for the stairs. "I'm on vacation. Like you said."

"Judging from my dress and behavior," Bella replies, with a touch of thematically appropriate iciness, "I think I think it's cold. But I can't be sure if that's not just me." She goes so far as to tug her black beret further down, covering herself more effectively from the phenomenological possibility of chill. His step back is noted by a quick flick of her eyes. "You're sure there's not chance of an assignment in Thailand? Because if there is, what the fuck are you doing here?"

"I can still see you naked," pointed out with thematically appropriate tact and class in return, Flint summons the kind of penetrating leer people get fired for even when they don't have x-ray vision and turns his back on her to move back into the kitchen. There, casual shuffling resumes and he slings catfood back into its shabby cabinet to retrieved a ziploc bagged apple and a warm beer in its place.

"I do have to ask," Bella says, squinting a little and turning her head, her curiosity pointed enough that it sort of pricks, "Does getting to do that actually still feel exciting for you? Or is it more like a security blanket, or an old habit you go through the motions of, because it would feel weird not to?" Whatever she may say, and whether it's the 'cold' or the thought of how cold she would be if she were as naked as he could see her, she wraps her arms about herself again, "It's a serious question."
Earnest curiosity or no, it's a question that provokes underlying attitude into a mild rankle at Deckard's nose while he works at clinging plastic to draw apple from baggy up into his teeth. Possibly he was not expecting her to linger.

Possibly melds into probably when he finally looks back to her mid-chew, inhumanly blue eyes somewhat disembodied by the filter of interceding dust and stray shafts of sunlight. "I dunno," muffled around apple after too long a pause, he finishes around lifting granny smith for another bite: "Sounds like something I should talk about with my therapist."

Bella nods, "Very cute," she says, "You are going to force me to take a jackhammer to you, aren't you? You know that at a certain point, you do have to take the initiative and want to be helped. I know it sounds cheesy, and highly unintelligent, but there is a reason that smarter people have higher rates of depression. Jesus, Flint, you must know how hard I'm trying." It started out okayish. It gets worse as it goes along. This is… not professional. Her voice wavers off pitch at moments. If this is acting, she's scarily good.

Like a particularly large and long-faced deer, Flint slows in his chewing at the sound of distress, however subtle. If it is acting she is scarily good. But psychopaths sometimes are once they learn what a boon it can be.

He's quiet for the time it takes him to finish chewing, depleted apple spun around in his hand once before he sets it down on the counter. Which is a few particles of dust dirtier than it was the last time he looked at it.

"For a while I used it to level the playing field. It's easier not to take people seriously when they don't realize they're exposing themselves." There's a limpid scuff when he twists the cap off his beer, hands switched with the right to hold so that most of the pressure is on the left. "Now I dunno. I need it. But I feel better. What's with you?"

The last question is much more penetrating in its very off-handedness. The abrupt, confrontational/evasive questions he usually asks her, these she's practiced with. It's typical. This near-feint actually makes it through her her, and she finds herself answering quite before she can hold it back. "It's shit. The people I work for are shit. All of them. Different kinds, but just as… shitty." She has been purposefully trying not to think about this for some time, so she can remain effective, so she's lacking in full eloquence. This is not an internally rehearsed speech. She catches herself much too late. She lifts her hands from herself, spreading them before her. "I… am sorry. That was grossly unprofessional. I shouldn't have said that."

Awkward silence drifts with the dust while Flint watches her from the kitchen. He holds the beer but doesn't drink it, loose-fingered grip at the neck complimenting the even line of his stare. And the cat's still in here somewhere — a skirt and rattle among the trash in another room is followed up with a weak, tinny jingle. "I won't tell anyone," is flat as it is quiet, transparently disapproving of attempted takebacks while he swigs and scratches at his head and feels out the apple again, watching her all the while.

"I know you won't," Bella says, the outburst, having passed, leaving only traces of that passing, "But for me to act as your doctor, I can't do things like that. For our time together, I am not supposed to increase your burden, nor use my burdens as a bargaining chip for yours. That's just emotional baggage exchange, trading cards with traumas. Neither of us will get better."

"What if I fired you?" looms out've the interceding silence like a whale surfacing through fog. Quieter than it should be for its mass. Miller Light still suspended forgotten in his fingers, he seems to recall it after pulling in a long, uneasy breath. It's set aside so that he can scuff at the side of his cheek, lambent eyes evasive. "Unless you think a positive prognosis for either of us is realistically attainable."

"I think you need just one real change of heart, some shift in cognition, to get you on the right path," Bella says, a scowl on her features - she's going to avoid outbursts, yes, but that may require her to sacrifice general composure. A small price. "As for myself, I'll be fine just as long as I survive my situation. When that becomes your concern, Flint, I'll let you know. I'll refer you to someone reliable."

"I don't want to talk to anyone else. I don't even really want to talk to you." Honesty perpetually in all the wrong places, Flint leaves a smudge of grey across the bridge of his nose with a pass of his left hand on its way back to fishing for the beer again. "You're not fired. Or unfired. Whichever makes you less unhappy. In any case, your well-being became my concern as soon as I realized someone else might try to kill you before I managed to 'tap that.'"

Bella lifts a hand to her forehead at this last little bit of color commentary. Her eyebrows rise to meet her fingers, welcoming them to the perturbed party. "Okay," she says, "I can work with that." She looks up at him. "I'd like to ask you, however, how you think you'd feel afterwards, if you were to have sex with me. About me, and about yourself?"

"Depends on if you're any good." That he even attempts to tag on the illusion of thoughtfulness by pausing a moment before he looks directly at her and says so is fairly ludicrous, but he doesn't look to be feeling all that self-conscious at the moment, opting to swig his beer where he might otherwise flinch back into himself and vanish into more treacherous regions of their current setting. Cephalopod to mantle and husk. "Why?"

"Because I wonder what it is about me that makes you want to fuck me bad enough to want to save my life," Bella states, matter of factly, which is the best way she can think to approach the whole question. "I don't buy that it's simply because of my looks. There are a lot of beautiful women that would be much easier for you to sleep with. I'm wondering what need fucking me would fulfill for you. What fantasy is supporting that desire."

"Mmm," says Deckard. Thoughtfully, theoretically, in a good point kind of way, beer back to the same counter he's now slouching bonily against, heedless of dirt and water staining and spilled catfood and whatever else. "When you say there are a lot of beautiful women who would sleep with me, are you calling them cheap whores or telling me you think I'm fuckable?"

"I think," Bella says, with a resurgence of her previous and usual smooth demeanor, "That you are an attractive man with desirable qualities, worthy of affection. Now, if you don't mind answering my question? You can take time to think about it. But don't think too hard. Try and just answer."

Exasperation exhaled in a low-key sigh spent out through his sinuses at her answer, Flint reaches automatically for a box of cigarettes he does not have and has not had for longer than he can clearly remember. Somewhere in there an entire month got sunk into the span of a few really, really long days spent staring at and through the same four walls.

Tension spiders up the back of his forearm when his hand fails to find what it's grasping after, and there's the retraction in a brackish turn of his long face and a hood at his brows. "What difference does it make?" He's about as sulky as he sounds, too, slouchily standoffish in his kitchen with the rustle and squawk of gulls competing for bread crust occasionally interrupting available light with a flick of wingtip or tail. "I'm pretty used to not getting what I want. Maybe that's something you can learn from me."

Bella gives a short 'heh', "If only that were an off handed confession. That you just want what you can't have. But it's not that simple. If you can have it, you don't want it, but if you want it, you go after it until it either gives in, or you drive it away. It's not an uncommon style." She shakes her head, "It won't work on me, note. Which is why I can be helpful. And it's not about what I want Deckard, it's about what I have to do. What I'm committed to."

"I don't want anything anymore," is pretty starkly contradictory to what Deckard just said. Five, maybe ten seconds ago. He's staring at her again, though — chilly eyes ringed unshakably cold for all the dilution of light and detritus and sound. "Not really." Elaboration is pretty much necessary given the sudden turn around, but its absence is nearly as predictable as the look he's giving her across the house now is dirty.

"I knew Abigail for six months before I ever tried to touch her. She didn't want it. She cried."

"A loss of pleasure in things once pleasurable, in life itself, is a symptom of depression," Bella says, speaking clearly and even a little slowly, trying to convey how serious she is, "That is a sickness you feel. Something that can change, if you are willing to let it change. What you had with Abby, that sort of feeling isn't gone. You just darkened it until it wasn't itself any more. You've taken the worst parts of that experience, and claimed it as a destiny. You don't have to."

"I know it's not destiny. It's history." Evading the point or not quite getting it to start with in what has rapidly escalated into something that feels — to him — increasingly like a confrontation in which he's been unexpectedly backed against a wall, Flint bristles in his corner of cabinet space. The tension in his arm creeps outwards, taking root in joints and especially across his chest and neck, less upright now that he's adopted a more defensive hunch. "I couldn't have what I wanted then and If I cared enough to press th issue I wouldn't get what I wanted now either. That's not projection. It's just the present sucking as much as the past and energy saved."

"Semantics!" Bella declares, adamant. This is escalating, and the more she's aware of it, the more she realizes that she feels like she has the upper hand. It's a stupid risk, and she knows it, but hers is a confidence tinged with hubris, "That energy saved is precisely the thing you need to apply to actually change things! Worse yet, you're losing energy. You already admitted it. Loss of pleasure. You're saving nothing!"

Whenever Deckard starts breathing a little faster, like an animal on the run, disaster is pretty sure to follow in the form of his own occasionally blunt stupidity or him having noticed someone else's fuckup. There's no declaration or warning accordingly this time, though. No movement either. He stands where he's determined that he still has some power over his side of the kitchen and glowers at her. Anchors down.

Bella stares him down, but as he says nothing, she refuses to say more herself. That would only reveal the seeming invulnerability of silence against what she says. She can't afford to reinforce that impression. She holds herself, just as if it were cold, and glowers back, mouth set in a stubborn line she must have drawn since she was just a girl.

It's not cold, though. Flint's t-shirt is more than enough to keep any winter lingering in the afternoon air comfortable. The chill breeze nipping in through the house's otherwise stagnant structure is a relief rather than a hassle. Some of the more gutted walls may even look like they've had an axe taken to the spaces between beams deliberately. The only kind of air conditioning anyone living out here's likely to see for a few years yet.

A master of long and uncomfortable silences in any any environment, and maybe especially behind bars, Deckard stares back. Ribs like boxy billows under the flat of his chest, narrow jaw set by straps of lean muscle cut hard across scruffy hollows and up the sides of his neck. "I don't know what you're telling me to do."

Bella shakes her head, "I'm not giving orders. I wouldn't if I could, even if it would be maybe a little gratifying," she says, her silence breaking as soon as his does. "I'm only trying to help you see another path. And to strongly encourage you to take it. That's all I can do, all I can ever do."

More silence.

To Deckard's credit, he looks legitimately confused at this point, long face haggard with strain he'd been doing a decent job of hiding until now. Shadows blocked in under his eyes create emphasis where physical distance might otherwise lend him some small measure of emotional privacy. Life is hard.

"Do you want to make out?"

Bella gives Deckard a weary look, but it's not unkind. It's not him that's tiring her. It's everything else. Her brows lift ever so slightly. "No thanks," she says, "But a hug would be nice. Comforting contact falls within the boundaries of the relationship." That disclaimer, is it really necessary?

It is a well known fact that Deckard does not like hugs.

Still. There's visible calculation taking place in his eyes while he studies her, gauging focus honed too sharp despite the fuzzy lines etched in weary around his mouth to mirror the look she's giving him. He's less kind about it, though. Maybe because he's also more skeptical.

Eventually he pushes himself stiffly off the counter and paces a few dragging steps out of the cave of the kitchen, where his temporary domain blends into hers. Hug range, theoretically.

So she'll have to do it? Fine. She can't ask too much of the man. She's pushed him rather hard today. And without fully intending to, not in the beginning. It all just sort of… happened. She closes the remaining distance, and puts her arms about him, the top of her head hovering below his as she turns her cheek to his chest. She's not cold at all, of course. She's warm. And again, if the hug is pure construct, pure appearance, she's a scarily good actress.

Given that her therapy hug isn't as enthusiastically pythonesque as Joseph's Tennessee pastor power hug, it's also less painful where patches of gauze are still in place around his side and the back of his right arm.

It occurs to him as he stares dimly at the broken wall over her that the height difference here is making any plans he might have had for this hug more difficult than he had initially drawn up in his head. Even Abby was taller.

But a gamble's a gamble and after scarcely a beat or two of warm contact, he tries to creep his way into enough of a readjustment against her to start kissing carefully down around the region of her ear. Which happens to be more accessible than her neck or her face in their current configuration.

The hug was a hug, it's true. But it also wasn't just a hug. Every moment, every interaction, and every reaction to an interaction, provides data. Each instant is a test. When Bella ceases to be surprised at the results, she knows she's pinned down a pathology.

And this response surprises her. She was, in truth, expecting him to try and feel her ass. The kiss was not even on her radar. It takes her an instant to realize her own predictions were off - more off, even, then the entertained possibility of him trying nothing at all. A kiss and a grope, in her mind, in this instance, have less to with each other than each has to nothing. Which is all to say, it takes her a moment before she lets go of Deckard and steps back, eyes rising to him, forhead creased just between her eyebrows.

"Tell me what you hoped to achieve by doing that," she says, seriously.

Something else Flint has become accustomed to in the last couple of years is people shirking off attempted involvement like water off an oil-soaked pelican.

He rankles and stiffens when she detaches. Unusually for the situation, there's no promise of imminent violence in said rigidity. Yet. He veers his attention off to the side from scalpel, light and probe, toggling quick as that over into calculating his escape instead.

"I dunno."

Bella shakes her head, "That's not good enough," she says - she doesn't sound angry. She just sounds emphatic. This is important. "Tell me what you wanted to happen next."

Edges blacking away as a paper blacks away from open flame, any softness around Deckard's long face erodes, leaving chiseled bone and dried out muscle in its place. The fact that his eyes are pale, bloodless grey rather than lambent blue in direct light doesn't serve to make them any gentler, either. He looks to be on the more hateful side of immensely uncomfortable. "I wanted you to kiss me back."

"Even though it would end things?" Bella presses, head tilting. She's eased up a bit in her emphasis - she's slipped into a more coaxing tone in reaction to his sudden and growing petrification. "Because you know that's what would have to happen. Some part of you must realize that, if you got what you wanted, I couldn't see you again. Are you sure that's what you want?"

Not coaxing enough, maybe. That or Flint's finally reached his humiliation threshold, because he glances at her and turns to depart without waiting for dismissal. Past the kitchen, this time, back towards the direction of the stairwell he originally appeared from.

Bella watches him go. There is a brief moment in which she considers giving chase. And while at first she thinks, no, she won't sacrifice her dignity like that, she then second guesses. This really isn't about her dignity, is it? If it is, she's a piss poor therapist indeed. She half-runs after him, beret coming a little loose, demanding her hand lift to steady it. Her other arm reaches out and her fingers find Deckard's arm. "Flint," she says, trying to halt him for just a moment, "I'll speak with Abby. And I'll let you know how it goes." Topical. Set aside from the matter that drove him away, at least to some extent. It's what she has to work with.

Flint could stand to be more enthusiastic. As things are, that line of reassurance doesn't get much of a reaction from him. Unless a half-heartedly dirty look is what she was going for. He tenses against her grip, a reflexive jerk back into her to throw her off stayed in its earliest stages, so that the final wrest away is as gentle as a 'wrest' can be before he sets back to taking the U bend of the stairs two at a time.

That's about all she can do. Bella made it clear that she wasn't going to just let him walk away. That is the important message. His reception of it is something she must simply hope for. She lets him go this time, waiting just a moment before heading for the exit. Leave him to the stage settings for his personal drama. Such things can be helpful, in their doses.

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