Water Treatment


bella_icon.gif deckard4_icon.gif

Scene Title Water Treatment
Synopsis Bella enlists Deckard in her upcoming scheme, before reviving and archaic and inhumane therapeutic practice.
Date July 3, 2010

Second Rate Hotel

First a strip club. Now this. Bella wishes she could afford to be more picky about the terms of engagement, but… she's ceased t care, for the most part. She's well out into the woods now, and she has only her own rather ferociously pragmatic principles to operate on.

So she's meeting Flint Deckard at a hotel. She arrives in a taxi, however hilarious it would be for her to come in the upscale mid-life-crisis-mobile she drives, and pays in cash. She wonders if Flint paid for this place in cash too, or if he put it on the Company account. She wonders if there's anything waiting for her up in the room that smells, almost without doubt, like ancient cigarette smoke and cheap cleaning product. She wonders if her willingness to come, at his hour and to this location, will be taken as presumption. She wouldn't precisely blame him. She wouldn't blame herself, though, either. She feels she's been clear about the most important lines.

She's discreet, enough so that it draws a little attention, with her scarf and sunglasses just screaming 'incognito'. But as long as they don't recognize her, it hardly matters that an unidentified woman is paying a call on Flint Deckard. Bella would be unsurprised to find out that she is not the first. Hopefully that's not a surprise awaiting her. She is not sure if arranging for an awkward interruption is entirely beyond him. The act, she thinks, is within his power to imagine or wish. To do it, though… she thinks it's beneath his intelligence, an hers. And he would know it.

Three knocks on the door. She removes her scarf and sunglasses, allowing the peephole a proper view of familiar features.

Peepholes are so last genetic generation.

And hookers are so last serial murdering campaign.

Flint is alone when he opens the door, queen-size bed at his back unmade on one side only. Agent Deckard himself is also half unmade, brown t-shirt wrinkled and jeans drawn lazily up over bony ilium by a brown leather belt nearly as worn out as he is. His eyes are blue in his skull, as ever, sparks of color set bright against the purplish sink of the sockets around them. The stale scent of cigarette smoke sunk into carpet and drapes and comforter before his time here is inevitable but understated.

So to review, he's dressed, not currently fucking anyone and the room smells better than others like it. By the same token, there's no alcohol visible anywhere despite the fact that she looks to have caught him trying to sleep off a hangover to the tune of that movie where Sean Connery is a Russian submarine captain or something pinging away on MUTE in the background. So. As with all guilty parties granted advance warning of inspection, everything may not be exactly as it seems.

”Hey,” he says on a delay because that's what he always says, mouth pulled flat for the short time he spends sizing her up before he glances down the hall and turns to wander stiffly back into the room proper. The door is left open behind for her to follow at will.

For her own part, Bella is dressed in loose grey slacks, low heels and a button-down shirt in robin's egg blue, which is a color she is so glad she can wear now that it's summer. It's maybe a more spring-ish color, but Bella is a die hard believer in the enduring power of robin's egg. Just saying.

"May I?" she asks. That's one of those lines. The respect of personal spaces. She's familiar, not a familiar. "This isn't a session or a meeting. This is something different. I'll try and keep it quick. You…" she finds it hard to believe she's about to say this, and in a suddenly lowered tone as well, "Are sure of your privacy? No… oversight? Surveillance?"

Flint grunts to the question of 'May I?' Still too slogged with recent sleep to care overmuch about the implications of her asking or playing along in any but the most basic kind of capacity. Right hand scuffed down the haggard length of his face, he steps over the comforter balled up on the floor at the foot of the bed in the laziest of quarantines and cracks open the mini fridge.

As soon as he's extracted a bottle of water it's closed again and he's squinting back after Bella's slower entry, bleary rather than wary. A water-stained suit lies crumpled on the floor of the bathroom somewhere in between here and there and crack goes the little plastic cap on the water ten seconds later than it should. Like a tardy punctuation mark.

”Nobody cares what I do enough to listen in on me jerking off in a hotel room alone for three days.” And he'd see the wiring. But his first point stands well enough on its own and he's taken to looking cannily suspicious through the slow unscrew of cap away from bottle between his fingers. “What do you want?”

Bella closes the door behind her, of course. She doesn't go so far as to slide the chain lock into place - that would just be admitting her paranoia. Actual paranoia, not the bandied about term that people think just means 'afraid'. Feelings of persecution. Feelings of enemies acting in concert. Much easier to rationally sustain when you work for a shadow organization in the pocket of Defense.

She steps into the room, taking a stand by the television. "Sorry, but, if you don't mind…" She leans over to switch the device off. Sean Connery really wants to get to Montana, but he can do that without Flint watching, she trusts. Standing straight again, she clasps her hands before her. "I want to steal from my employers," she says, very up front, "Not our mutual employers, I effectively don't work for them anymore. The only thing I do for them is see you, and I'm not asked to do that anymore. They've given up the ghost, the whole things a mess. But my new employers are, somehow, even worse. So I want to steal from them. I'd like you to help me."

"You do anyway." See him, that is. Compelled to point this out with a bland tip of his Ozarka, Flint draws a long sip off the top, sizing her up next to his temporary television all the while, brows hooded, attitude tolerably low-key even though she turned his movie off.

He doesn't look like too much of a wreck despite himself in the room's low light. Just mussed. Still eating enough to avoid an entirely skeletal presence. Clean and sober, lucid, here and now, no stink of sickness or rot to mingle with stale cigarette smoke. No whiskey stench either.

The rest of what she says takes longer for him to contemplate while he calculates unknown, wire-strung shoulders flexed and rolled to stretch the threat of a kink out of his back. He scratches his bristly head and adjusts his grip on the water bottle and filters in a long breath. Influential variables in his life right now are limited. Joseph is the only person he still talks to. Bella is Bella. So he eventually says, “Okay,” and promptly sidles into an uneasy shift of his weight towards his sockfooted heels.

"Lacking much in the way of other professional ethics," Bella replies, "I'm dedicated to retaining our once-breached trust. Pathological, on my part. But I do believe I can still help you." A beat, "And you look good. Though I don't know that I can take credit for that." Her eyes slide over to his water-ruined suit. "I'll ask what you've been up to later. First… business."

And business is to be conducted in the proper setting, or at least with the proper setup. Bella draws out the chair from the complimentary business suite (read: desk), turns it about, and takes a seat, carefully crossing her legs. She folds her hands over her lap and regards Deckard with a straight, fixed gaze.

"I'm going to be transporting some recordings of documents to a neutral location. I'd like you to transport those recordings, likely in the form of film cartridges, to the deposit box for safe keeping. I won't lie, these are documents that we would both be killed several times over for. But I have all the necessary clearance, and some outside assistance."

"I have a hangover." Voice claggier with interrupted sleep and persistent cotton mouth than the rest of his cagey countenance, Flint rats himself out with little feeling for her opinion of his honesty. A cruddy sniff later, he tips back another swallow of water and screws the cap back on so he can drag himself over enough to sink shoddily down onto the foot of his bed while she makes nice with the chair and turning it just the right angle and crossing her legs and folding her hands.

The bed creaks. He muffles a belch into his sleeve and slouches semi-opposite her, capped bottle sloshed carelessly over into the sheets at his side. Breathe in, breathe out. He doesn't belch again. "If they're going to kill me anyway, you might as well tell me what it is."

Bella arches a brow, "Which means you're in, yes?" she says, "Very well."

"It's the working lab notes for the recreation of a serum that can produce Evolved abilities in individuals lacking the SLC," is the rather brief but essentially comprehensive explanation, "This includes a variety of information the government would be very, very unhappy to have released to the general public. It's combination private corporation bait and blackmail. Not a bad nest egg, if it doesn't get me killed in the taking."

Did Flint know of the existence of such a serum? It seems like he might have at some point in the last year, though talk of it registers no flicker of familiarity in the lines around his eyes. It doesn't really coax forth surprise either, is the thing. Some automatic, wary distaste for the idea, perhaps. Shades of unconscious genetic elitism left over from days long past masked in a glance away and a quick rankle at his nose.

A shift of his knees wider apart is likely insufficient distraction from his absent poker face and he's quick to force himself to look back at her while he scuffs after an itch at his neck and runs out of things to do with his hands. "Two questions," he says, voice dialed down into something at least distantly similar to gravitas.

"Why do you care enough to bother and does this mean I can blackmail you into sleeping with me?"

"Boredom, fear and anxiety can, over time, combine to produce symptoms of recklessness or despair, sometimes both. I don't like despair, I'm not very good with it, so I'm choosing to go with recklessness," Bella states, as if describing her daily exercise routine instead of her psychic state, "I'm already almost constantly afraid for my life. This way, at least, I'm actively risking it for some stakes, rather than simply passively living in fear."

"My THC resistance is also much too high for economy or comfort," she amends, "And may be adversely effecting my memory. And really, Flint, if you did manage to do that, how do you think you would feel afterwards?" She smiles, very wry, "Do you really want to kill the magic? That you haven't slept with me can't be a small motivation in why you still put up with me, what thing nearing pleasure you feel in seeing me. To get what you want is so much less exciting than wanting."

It probably says something about Flint's progress that he can express frustration by looking flatly frustrated instead of flipping the desk or. Killing someone.


He looks frustrated.

Brows low, eyes averted, axe-hewn hollows and angles edged all hard and his bony hands clawed into paws tense as they are idle against his jeans. What were they talking about?

”You know you'll still be alive in a few months. For the fire.”

"That's a temporal fallacy," Bella points out, "Precognitions are probabilistic rather than fated, research suggests. And knowledge of the future can change the future. Which is why I initially hesitated about telling you what street I was on. Necessarily, I won't need to tell you when and if that event happens, because I'll know you know already. In fact," she smiles, "You'll be waiting for my call. So you can make sure you have me in the theater, as you claim to have seen."

"You're a temporal fallacy," muttered at the height of ill-tempered wit, Flint lets his eyes dim enough for the screen of his cell phone to be legible once he's shuffled it forth from his blue jeans to have something to occupy himself with. Mainly so he doesn't have to look at her smiling at him.

"I'll let you know when and where," Bella says, "And if we have that settled…"

Her head tilts. "How are you Flint? What've you been up to?"

"More of the same." Long meetings he half understands and hugs and booze and a dearth of sexytimes such that he is still struggling somewhat with his temper. Relatively peacefully struggling at least, tension relegated into tendons bit into the backs of his hands while he pushes phone buttons a little too hard in cycling pointlessly through his (short) list of contacts. "Corbin and Ryans are out of town.”

"Give me specifics," Bella says, "Tell me what's going on in your life. I won't ask you to tell me how you feel about them, just tell me. It'll be my job to suss out your feelings," she folds her arms across her chest, "At least give me the chance. Would you do that for me?" Just full of favors to ask, isn't she?

"Ayers asked me to move in. I did. He's been out of town. Abigail lives in the same complex. She saw me. Gave me a hug. And a shotgun." Phone tucked away again so that he can examine scars nicked in white across his knuckles instead, Flint doesn't even glance up at the latter admission.

"I spent some time with Joseph and figured out I sleep better when I drink. But I can't drink much or I get sick. I've been taking my pills." He's disinterested in his own retelling of recent events, nasal monotone shot through with wet gravel and lead.

"You expressed concern about the reality of your friendship with Agent Ayers," Bella notes, "Have you overcome that doubt? Do you think of him as a friend now? Moving in is a rather big step." First things first. Other questions will wait. Questions about Abby, pressing, yes. But she wants to ease into this. She's in therapist mode now. She feels… normal. This is as much her therapy as his. More so perhaps.


No and no, that is, despite room left for her to arrive at that conclusion on her own. With proof potentially pre-blended in the pudding: this is not Corbin Ayers' apartment.

Resigned to his own forced tolerance for ninja business rolling over into an impromptu session, he continues to work at his hands, one over the other with skin blanched pale with dehydration under the press of his thumb.

Bella could ask why, but that'd mostly be rehashing old ground. Just another poor attempt on the part of her erstwhile-sort-of-still employers to integrate Deckard into the fantasy they've built for him. She can't really blame them for shoddy work. They have bigger fish. And as she doesn't want to talk about Joseph. No way. Which leaves.

"What was it like seeing Abby again? Being hugged by her?" a pause, "Might I ask if that's part of why you're here, rather than there?" The shotgun she doesn't ask about. It's a detail whose significance she can't even guess at, so she'll wait for whatever trickle of information Deckard will give her about the circumstances, and move on from there.

The dry brush of callus over scarred knuckles gives way to the saw-toothed sandpaper of palm against neckbeard's grain on up the side of his face to his sideburns. There's milder scarring under his throat — marked mainly for the absence of even the most resilient breed of scruff for a slim horizontal track or three between the jut of his chin and the block of his adam's apple.

"You can ask," he decides. Eventually. Based upon the fact that she technically already has. Deliberate antagonization rings bright around pinned pupils when they shutter back into focus on her face and he curls his toes against worn carpet, no more interested than he has to be.

"I wanted to be polite, Flint," Bella says, sounding almost a little sad, not applying pressure but rather seeking that emotional vacuum, a change in pressure to draw him out of himself and to her, "You know what I mean. Just talk to me. Tell me what you feel. You were so eloquent in your journal. You don't have to talk a lot, I know that. But please… talk."

Good old Flint doesn't look like he's buying it, tonight. He watches her get sad kind of like he'd watch a pigeon across the sights on his .22, twine-textured muscle worked behind the near hollow of his jaw while his hands work to lace themselves back together again between his knees.

Frustration and curiosity are at odds in his posture, probing stare flat as it is sidelong and tilted down.

"How long did I keep a journal?"

This is the problem. The old tactics don't work, and the new tactics are unprofessional and messy. Rocks, hard places… ech!

This question is simple enough. "I had you keep it for a number of weeks," she replies, "I don't know if you kept writing. I hope you did. I didn't ask for it again. I'd hoped you'd have given it to me on your own, if you wanted to. That was some time ago. Before our breach."

"Mmm," says Deckard. He says this sometimes when he's being a dick, like now, and also when he's parsing something that he's not sure he should believe. Like now.

It's not an aggressive manuever but it is aggravating. Him sitting there in his iron-clad skull and inhuman eyes with his expression fixed at a conscious, rigid remove save for a vaguely upward pull at the corner of his mouth. "…What was that you said before, about wanting and getting what you want?"

Is that… a smile? Um… okay. Bella frowns slightly, trying to remember herself exactly what she said. "Um… you mean how wanting something is more exciting than getting the thing you want?" she says, "Sort of a cliche, at first glance. And maybe not strictly accurate. The most exciting part of wanting is getting what you want, but then the excitement's over. And sometimes it's over before it begins. Sometimes it retroactively changes the original excitement. Into regret. Into shame. Which it shouldn't, but we're fragile creatures in the hands of cruel societal norms."

"Well, in that case," he leans forward a scant ten or fifteen degrees, "I'd really hate to force you into shame or regret with my penetrating honesty. I can only speculate that the same motivation drove me to keep any deeper writings from you back before I was sane."

Evidently content to leave it there, he breaks eye contact to slouch back into a full supine recline, knees still bent off the foot of the bed beyond his glower at hte ceiling.

"If I'm following your analogy," Bella says, watching his eyes drop away, lips quirking to one side for a spare moment, "You're saying I would penetrate you in the analogous case. Which I'm fine with, by the way, in principle and practice." She's given a landscape view of his torso as he lies back, his chin and jaw forming weather granite outcropping to her vision. "I want to help you, yes. But that's depend entirely on your want. I want you to want to get better. To feel more freely. To speak openly, at least to me."

"As far as we've come, and as far as we may yet go, I think you can afford to take that chance on me."

"Probably," agreed without inflection, Flint gropes lazily after the slosh of his Ozarka lost somewhere in the sheets at his side and gives up before he finds it. Too much effort. As it stands it is no secret that he prefers more literal forms of penetration. So much so that it hardly bears repeating, and in the silence that ensues, he works up enough energy to grope again such that he sends the bottle bumping clunk glug off the bedside.

"Then please, Flint… do," Bella says, only a touch imploring. She watches the pitiful display (she finds it pitiful, at least, but in the warmest sense - true pity), and rises to her feet, moving up next to the bed and descending with bent knee to pick it up - the praticed motion of a woman uninterested in giving a view to posterior watchers. She rises, plastic bottle in hand, and holds it out to him, balanced between index finger and cap-bracing thumb. The offer of the bottle comes with a look of true concern, or a very convincing facsimile thereof. "Your water."

Flint looks anyway, as is to be expected, skull lifted away from bedsheets enough to tilt for the time it takes him to determine that there's nothing more spectacular than usual to see. Offered water roughly ignored now that it's in her possession, the once and future crook resettles himself and says plainly to the ceiling and all other present parties: "No."

Bella isn't entirely sure what possesses her to do what she does next. Actually, okay, she's pretty sure she knows. Why she lets it possess her is the real question. It's a split second decision, one of those moments where our decisions make us rather than the other way around. She twists the top of the bottle and, without further warning, flips it over and dumps the remaining contents onto Deckard's face. This peevish little gesture will not be used as an excuse for him to take off his shirt; this, at least, her better reason permits her to decide.

She's going to risk drinking after him?

Deckard has just about enough time to look equal parts baffled and impressed with himself at trust expressed in the oh-so-casual form of shared vending machine selections before the open bottle is upended over his face. Liquid cold.

A thrash and a flash of teeth see him flinching into a roll all the way off the far side of the mattress. He nearly manages to twist to his feet.

But doesn't. There's a lot of him and a lot of water up his nose.

So the second impact the people downstairs are going to call and complain about is him hitting the carpet and scrambling to his feet, grizzled bristle plastered down in uneven patches to match the impressionist artwork the front of his shirt has temporarily become. Once he's up, he mostly drips and stares, bewildered. Also, on a more gradual scale, cautiously optimistic.

Bella's waiting for him as he rises, her arms folded, her lips pursed, her brows raised to the exact level of critical expectation. It's not motherly - that was for when she was offering him the water in a contained, voluntary form. Now she looks like an older sister, waiting for the end of her dumbass little brother's shenanigans. Not that this older sister would call them shenanigans. She would call them 'bullshit'.

"Are we ready to cut the bullshit?" is, in fact, exactly what Bella says.


Okay as in definitely.

Definitely Deckard takes his shirt off.

There's another one underneath — a wife beater, perhaps unfortunately appropriate — that is still mostly dry despite the way the original flops wetly to the carpet at his feet. He is only somewhat less wiry than he looks like he should be and has tattoos, some of which she might have seen before with him in various states of semi-consciousness. The serpent around the cross and the prison-ink blue eyes blotted in under the join of clavicles and scapulae. They compliment his wet-t-shirt-induced faux hawk.

No. No no. He's not…

He is.

He's taking off his shirt. Sweet Jesus.

It's a struggle not to do what every woman in her character type does in every movie where this happens. No, not approach him with trembling desire. Wrong character type, or at least wrong point in the movie. What she has to struggle to not do is lift her hand to her brow and drop her eyes to the floor in half-embarrassed exasperation. Nope. She won't do that. She'll stare him down. This little ploy is not going to work.

That is, assuming it's supposed to achieve what she thinks it's supposed to achieve. Intimidation through inappropriate action. Or something. Some kind of reaction beyond what she provides him, the very slight elevation of already slightly elevated brows.

"Now that you're more comfortable…" Bella suggests, "Maybe we can talk?"

Whichever way he was hoping for her to swing, she manages to avert it with outward non-reaction. One eye squints tell-tale with ill-suppressed frustration before he can quash it down and he tips his face down, masking backlash through the incline while he attempts to recalculate. It's harder to focus with less of a shirt on and his deltoids tune tense in the cold one twitchy thread of fiber at a time.

"You owe me a dollar," he says at length, voice cruddy with runoff even once he's cleared his throat. "If you want to take yours off too I'll consider us even."

"So impatient for what you're destined to get anyways?" Bella says, prodding him with his confessed vision, refusing to act like she's doesn't take him seriously, at face value. She's pretty sure he's lying. She can't be positive. She can't… totally rule it out. But admission of doubt on the matter is much more telling, she figures, than simple acceptance. Let his lie burn him in that very acceptance if he is lying. And if he's not?

Well, he did say they were using protection. So there's that, at least.

"Stop stalling, Flint," because she won't let up, not at this point, "You should at least give me bread crumbs."

Flint's looking at her awful hard for a man who knows he's going to get what he wants sooner or later. A vaguely self-conscious pass of his left hand over scarring puckered fresh at his opposite bicep breaks off his osprey-eyed stare and for her successful parry her reward is two-fold: first, he dials back aggression.

Then everything else. Another cephalopod contraction into quiet, resentful dislike, worn shirt tail hooked up to push across his face. "Why do you want to know?"

"What I already know is that you are a very intelligent man," Bella says, her tone tinged with just enough confrontation to make this less of a compliment and more of a calling out, like he's been trying to hide the fact. "Which means that your brain is working very quickly most of the time, running through a variety of thoughts, pouring over memories, some more obsessively than others, creating plans, some more intently than others, calling up the voices of people, some louder than others. I want you to tell me what you're remembering, what you're planning, who you hear, and what they're saying."

Her brow shifts down now, as if overcompensating for its previous lofting, intensifying her gaze in the process. "I want to know what's going on in your mind."

"That isn't an answer." It takes him a beat to decide as much, argument for the sake of needing to know rather than for the simple sake of further argument. His bed is wet now also, so. He scowls glumly down after the darkened sheets and scratches at his neck, mulling over the time it'll take to dry vs the effort involved in dragging all of the sheets off and sleeping on a towel. "I don't make plans anymore."

"I'm trying to make it easy on you," Bella insists, "I'm saying… say what's on your mind at this instant, and what's been on your mind regularly lately. What you've been dwelling on. Because I know you dwell, Flint. You're a dweller. That's very much your problem. And your lack of plans is a symptom of that very problem."

Irritable accusation prickles at the scruff of Deckard's neck, following familiar pathways through the clench of his jaw and on into the bite of rangy muscle at his sternum. "You want to know for the sake of knowing," is less cranky of a statement than it could be, granted. "And you're a therapist. That's your problem."

"My hearing, my finding out, is helpful because it will assist me in guiding you," Bella explains, trying to sound just patient enough to not make it seem like she has to be patient, "But the most important part of this is that you say these things. Vocalize your thoughts. Force them out into the open where their distortions will be visible for what they are."

"You're not being paid to talk to me anymore." Not being paid and not interested in sex and still here. Suspicion and bitter defense sketched in long around his face, Flint breaks focus long enough to watch housekeeping trundle by through the hallway beyond the closed front door. For his part, he keeps to his post across the bed from her.

"I mess up a lot. There's a lot to think about.”

"Then you have a lot to talk about," Bella says, turning and taking a delicate perch on the edge of the bed. The chair didn't work. Best try for something less direct. Something less obviously therapist/client. "Please. You can start anywhere. Start with the last thing you remember feeling like you messed up."

"Letting you push me this far. You do recognize the paradox that exists between asking me to die for petty revenge and kindly holding my hand through talk therapy." It's not really meant to be a question. There's no lilt at the end when his chilly eyes tick back into unholy focus in the region of hers defined by their sockets.

Fair enough. "I would like to send you to your death a happier man, given the chance," Bella says, smiling a little - see, humor! "And, if you're happier, you're less likely to take dangerous risks. So consider it a defense against further recruitment into schemes like mine. Now, look back further. The mess before."

Deckard is not interested. There's a bristle along the slight stoop of his spine, hackles prickled into a more transparent defensive wariness than his norm, which may have something to do with sheer sobriety. Also deprivation of various wants and/or needs and deeper discomfort that isn't exactly mistrust. Just close enough to be unflattering while he eyes her, hair spined dark and loose skin bunched damp around the join of neck and narrow jaw.

"Everything," he says finally. Decisively, even. Like he's thought about it. And it's already been established that he has.

"Are you really going to tell me you've never screwed around with a patient? Or is it just me specifically you're not into."

"I've never done anything sexual with a client while there was still a professional relationship in place," Bella replies, with the exactitude of one constructing the terms of a contract. Which is apropos, since such a relationship is just that: a contract. "It is absolutely nothing personal. As a therapist, my individual desire cannot become involved, or tangled with that of a client. Such things turn toxic very quickly, and are always a sign of bad mental health in the therapist themselves. Your desire is completely understandable, and can even be useful, if we can move you through it."

"You are in bad mental health," pointed out blandly and with (only light) shades of derisive accusation (not quite prevelant enough to be worth an entire exclamation point), Flint is blackly quiet for a beat that promises to stretch long if she'll let it. A restless crack at his knuckles does nothing to dissipate the silence. "You're not being paid. I didn't ask you to come here."

"That's true," Bella says, her most obvious tactic for dealing with this fact manifesting in her matter-of-factness, the way she compartmentalizes this fact, placing it behind glass. A terrarium for her nest of personal vipers. In her care - carefully watched and daily counted. "But if I slept with you now, like this, it would have severe consequences. For us, and for me." She pauses, "I have sex when I'm bored, with people with whom I have nothing to lose. And I have sex with people who can treat me well, take me out, give me pleasure. And I would have sex with someone who I could share something meaningful with, someone I respected. A relationship." This last is presented, tellingly, as a hypothetical. She imagines such a thing could be, a 'real relationship'. She admits the possibility, lacking examples. "I respect you Flint. Our professional relationship makes another kind of relationship impossible. And unless we were to conclude our professional relationship with thorough success, you'll forgive me for saying that I have doubts about our ability to maintain a successful romantic relationship. I am not the kind of woman who is interested in 'fixer uppers'. I will not be someone's lover cum therapist. I will be one or the other. Not both."

The fortitude Flint requires to listen through the entirety of Bella's turn around has no correlation with his average amount of self-control. Reticence is his default setting.

Remaining quiet is not an achievement.

He withdraws from the weight of her speech via a subtle slant of his torso away, though — so much honesty stacked up in such a straight-forward, logical package that he doesn't look like he knows what to do with it for the time it takes him to marinate in his own disappointment.

She has a list. He does not meet necessary pre-defined criteria.

"Okay," he says once everything's been set out for him, more croakily sixteen than forty-eight or however old he guesses he is this week. No effort is made to rectify his partially-shirtless situation, but he's hardly moving, much less moving to take anything else off, so. She's probably safe.

Bella allows her eyes to close for a moment. There's a gathering of her energies, a flow of air through her nostrils, the rise of her shoulders. Her eyes open. Here goes. "Insofar," she begins, a word to order all words that follow, predetermining their structure in crystalline order, "As I've already transgressed more traditional bounds in therapeutic practice - for example," she nudges the empty water bottle, which she had discarded on the ground, with her foot, "My reintroduction of archaic water treatment - and insofar as I'm interested in an honesty I hope will be reciprocated," this all sounds like a lead up to something, a long, long garden path of a sentence, "I say only that the idea of a relationship is… ill-advised. Extremely ill-advised. Not necessarily unimaginable."

Dubious dignity having already shriveled somewhat, Deckard fails to react much. He nods the way people do at the 'on the bright side' footnotes at the end of any other difficult exchange, acknowledging without bothering to calculate what that means for his odds in terms of decimal places.


A deep breath drawn in delayed mirror of Bella's procrastination, he straightens himself out some and scrubs at his brow, still thinking less quickly than he'd like to. What did she even ask? "Abigail's letter said I hit her."

This lack of real reaction, the absence of feature-brightening hope, is maybe just a tinge insulting, a feeling that Bella, despite generally believing in her pride's validity and her vanity's supportable nature, finds distasteful in herself. She suppresses the idiotic, childish emotion with a scorn she doesn't consider self directed, since such emotions she would prefer not to attribute to her ideal self.

And anyways, she doesn't really want to get his hopes up. She just wants to keep him from deflating entirely. And this admission, one that she was hoping he'd make rather than making her bring it up, she feels is a reward for a canny ploy. This is what she tells herself.

Bella nods. "Yes," she says, "Would you please tell me about it? About the circumstances?" No judgment audible in her voice.

"I don't remember."

Blank honesty sketches through his profile like a wince, face turned enough to obscure expression down to its most basic components while he frowns distantly down at the carpet. He's too distracted to take note of the perceived insult on her end, oblivious to all but his own purported spousal abuse. "She sounded okay in the letter."

"Can you imagine why you might hit her?" Bella asks. The forgotten should not reappear, she knows. She should not idly invoke it. The return of this repressed (erasure is not something Bella honestly has faith in, with Evolved methods) would spell dangers much, much graver than blows. But insofar as it lurks inside him, a sickness, it's her business to know.

Deckard says, "No," first. Then, "I dunno," and some twisting discomfort in the region of his small intestine that seagues into another, "No." No he does not know any single good reason to pop Abigail in the mouth. The hand that was itching at his brow lifts further to scruff his drying hair the rest of the way back up into disorder, clutching aimlessly at the back of his head before it finds its way restlessly back to his side.

Bella's usual line of questioning would involve asking if there were any other times he can remember becoming angry enough to resort to violence. She would try and get to the bottom of his urge, to untangle the knot that halted reason and transformed frustration into aggression. But the answer to this question is much too grimly obvious for her to walk down that path. So she takes the other fork. "What was it like seeing Abigail again? Being hugged by her?" She already asked this question, but then she made the mistake of asking if she could ask another question, giving him a much-too clear line of flight. No such missteps this time. He'll have to work maybe a little harder. Unless he stonewalls her again. But nothing ventured, nothing gained.

There's an awkwardly interrogative air to all of this. It's rooted somewhere between the fact that they're both squaring off on their feet and the length of time it's taken him to get around to actually attempting to answer her questions. He looks drowsy accordingly — or disconnected more likely, silence gradually running his chain out to the full of its rusty length before he wagers in with a muttered, "I miss her."

"But you chose to be here, instead of sharing a building with her," Bella observes. The way she says it isn't in the manner of pointing out an inconsistency. Interrogative air or not, her tone contains no 'holes in your story' accusation - though that certainly doesn't mean he can't imagine its presence. She's more double checking with him, at least from the sound of it. "Would you tell me why?"

"She left me. I killed people. And I hit her." Flint dictates the latter point, ah, pointedly, like maybe he thinks she might have missed it the first time around or otherwise not considered it a valid reason for avoidance. Irritation is harder to convey when you're refusing to look at a person. Like now, for instance, he's become very intently interested in the damp spot in the middle of his temporary bed.

"And still she hugged you," Bella says, "I know Abigail is, from what I've heard, a warm person. A forgiving person. If it's a matter of your guilt over what you've done, wouldn't she be just the person to turn to for forgiveness?"

"Compulsive pity isn't forgiveness. And forgiveness doesn't change the past. She'll always know. So will I." The last added on as more of an afterthought given that he's already demonstrated his capacity to (briefly) not know, Deckard tilts his focus up to the ceiling on his way to slouching sideways down into the office chair Bella pulled out for herself earlier.

Bella shifts her position so she remains facing Deckard. She's not letting up on this topic. There's little to no pause between his settling in and her next words. "It doesn't change the past, but it changes our present, our experience of ourselves, our experience of other people. Have you asked her for forgiveness?"

The, "No," that coaxes forth sounds final. No he hasn't and no he doesn't intend to now in the present and no he won't do it in the future either. He will not do it in a hat, he will not do it with a cat. Meanwhile he braces himself with a long breath to hold while she fishes up — whatever it is she wants to try despite the absence of any drive in him for compliance on this matter.

"Why not?" Bella asks, a single blink preceding the question.

"I dunno," says Deckard (still quietly), wire-strung chest falling gradually after the expell of his long-held breath. His left hand finds its way out along the armrest and curls in to pluck at an imagined flaw in the cover, leaving him with that to focus on rather than Bella. "I don't want to talk anymore."

It's now to Bella to decide if she feels like she ought to respect his wishes. It's the 'want' that makes it her prerogative. But it's also the 'want' that makes her hesitant to push further. So, after a moment's consideration, she nods. "Then we don't have to," she says, "Thank you for saying as much as you did."

Flint continues to pry at the armrest even once she's agreed to let him off the hook for now, brow knit and focus deliberately distracted while it can afford to be. Everything is what it is. Chair and foam stuffing and thief and murderer. He doesn't look any happier than he was half an hour ago. "Don't mention it."

Bella rises to her feet. Time to leave. She did what she came here to do. She's under no obligation to improve his state of mind. She's enlisted him in her scheme and, if she's really the cold hearted creature she must be to do what she now does for a living, that should be enough.

She lingers a moment.

"Take care, Flint," she says, "I'll see you again soon."

"Okay," does not hold any expectation that she is telling the truth re: timeframe on seeing him or anything else, except maybe that spiel on why she won't engage in more libidinous friction with him, which was infinitely easier to trust in for whatever reason. Deckard doesn't get up to let her out. As he is not a gentleman, these things do not concern him. However, he does stretch his left arm until his fingertips brush the grip on the minifridge in search of a second bottle of Ozarka.

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