With Sincere Thanks To Mrs. Hadley


bella_icon.gif deckard_icon.gif

Scene Title With Sincere Thanks To Mrs. Hadley
Synopsis Who provided the phone.
Date February 14, 2011

Suresh Center/Mrs. Hadley's Establishment

Mrs. Hadley was nice, when he asked to use her landline. She was even nice when he asked her to turn off the CCTV camera before he came in.

Mrs. Hadley has always been nice.

So here he is in a field jacket with the old yellow phone at his right hand and a pastry he doesn't know the name of poised under his left while he finishes dialing in, wiry hair scruffed and scruff wiry. Fresh stitches across the back of the left might've been done by his truly; he squints after inflammation on his way to turning overcooked dough over in search of jelly filling.

Restless unease turns the phone back down onto the hook unexpectedly partway through the first ring.

He sits a while before trying again, the office around him grey with winter light. This time he makes it to the second ring. And the third.

The pounding behind her eyes is the injury, so to speak, the direct somatic result of overlong, overworked hours and let's not forget to mention the explosions, flames and gun reports that ca-cracked through the muzzy evening under the Dome just days ago.

The insult atop is that she has to dry swallow.

Water is not the only thing rationed in the Suresh Center. Medicine, even the most humble of painkillers, is hoarded and distributed only with doctor's orders. Thank God, then, that Bella is a doctor. The rationalizations she employs to justify this plunder (she needs to be in top form, she's worked as hard as anyone here, it's just one small, small peccadillo, &c…) can't quite abide a second theft, so its down the hatch with the least of lubrication. And then… a little peace.

Like an intern all over again, Bella steals her nap in a supply closet, huddled in a corner, entirely ensconced in dark. Out there, past that door, are moans and sighs and the awful smells of people coming apart. In here it is quiet and smells of disinfectant. The latter smell doesn't help her pain much, but the dark and the silence do a lot. But they don't last.

Simple dread is what Bella feels as her phone rattles and buzzes in her pocket, a tiny window of surprisingly bright light flashing open against the white fabric of her coat. She presses the heels of her hands against her temples and prays, prays that…

No second ring. Oh, thank God. If it were medical emergency they would have-

And then it comes again. And this time, it doesn't stop. And by the third shuddering buzz, it's with hand like claw that Bella pulls the incessant gadget from her pocket and cracks her eyes open far enough to spy the caller ID. No number she knows.

The pressure of a call unanswered, and a caller unknown, is worse than that behind her eyes. Flick, and the phone's open, at her ear.

"Isabella Sheridan speaking." Voice ambiguously hoarse, like an employee 'calling in sick'.

She didn't sound like that when they last spoke weeks ago. Brows twitched into a reflexive knit, Flint loses track of what he was looking at, shrill blue going unfocused somewhere between pastry and the far wall while he listens.

For hints, maybe. A cough, or.

Some other indication that the cause isn't serious.

Or his fault.

He's silent a beat then, a sharp intake of breath late in coming when it strikes him that she expects to be answered, as people who receive phonecalls do.

"Hey," he says, his own low croak familiar as it is uncreative. "It's Mike."

The series of noises that crackle over to Flint's end of the line are not, at first, any sort of vocal reply. Rather, its the clatter of a utility shelf being shouldered by a woman sitting forward too fast and too forcefully. "Son of a-!" are the first words Flint can be expected to make out, followed by a few more hollow tok toks - plastic sample jars toppling over, showering floor and doctor alike.

"Oh th-," is muffled, then followed by a much clearer, "-ank God." With clarity comes some sense of affect. The hoarseness is gone, replaced by a avidity that a Bella under other, better, safer circumstances would probably be a little embarrassed by. "Oh thank God, Fff-" the first letter of Flint's name is ffforced out into prolonged sound as she self censors just in time, "where-" no, wrong question, "are you all right? Is this-" okay, wait need to make things clearer, "I'm- I'm under the Dome. This fucking thing, I'm just stuck here and-" a caught breath, a slow inhale, "I- I don't wish you were here but I wish you were here. I-"

Something nagging at the back of her mind. Something she had to tell him, specifically. "Oh God, your cat! It's at the hotel. I'm sorry, I didn't know. I'm sorry- I'm sorry!"

Relief is quick to cool tension away from the circles sunk in around Flint's eyes. Enough so that he follows with knuckles pushed rough past the bridge of his nose — a steaming fresh headache already moving in to fill the void when she gets to the part about the dome. And being under it.

How long have you been there? is a stupid question: As long as everyone else. How long have you been in there without telling me? is what he means anyway, and it has the same answer.


Flint's gripping the receiver so hard the plastic has to give a warning pop before he eases up.

"I didn't know," isn't an intentional echo, more frustrated than apologetic for not having called sooner while he tries to unglue the clamp of his carnassials against a tingle of absurd panic. "It's okay," comes later. More controlled. "I'm okay. Who are you with?"

"Should I say?" Bella asks at once, easing back into her corner, her legs tugged up against her chest, clamped in place by a crossing arm. "I didn't- I'm sorry I didn't call you but- I didn't know" - a continuing refrain - "if it was safe or-" but he's okay, he said so, so…

"I'm at the Suresh Center," her question as to 'should' evaporating under the simple need to tell him what is going on, a need that feels, at this moment, pretty much overwhelming, "it's- it's about the best place to be right now I think. I'm working. There are- a lot of hurt people. But it's a shitshow, Jesus, Fl-" dammit, two letters fumbled this time, with the vowel easily suggested.

This new near-slip makes her voice catch, and when she frees it, she's lost that line of speech. After silence hangs briefly, Bella finally manages, "I miss home. I feel really, really homesick." This admission comes with the uneven edge of burgeoning sob lining each word, a quaver that is controlled, but betrays a need for control.

"…For your parents' place?"

Had she even liked where they were living? Nose rankled against baffled dissonance between 'Bella' and 'nostalgia' (or something like it) and trying to relate all at the same time, Flint comes up short with another protracted silence. His breathing stays on the line for him, smoking habit sketched hoarse through every wary pull while he sinks back into the ancient leather of Hadley's desk chair. "For ours?"

Someone pokes their head in through the cracked door, sees the look long on his face, hesitates, and eases into a creaking retreat. For once, Flint fails to notice.

"I can swing by. Put down another month's rent just in case."

The ghost glow of the phone's display casts a third of Bella's face in blue-tinged light, the the rest in a spectral smear of shadow. Her knees at her chin, heels digging in a bit to keep her legs from sliding out, her arm moves up and around, fingers picking at the hair tie that keeps everything in a manageable bun.

"Ours," she says, faintly nasal twinge indicating an unspoken 'of course'. One needn't 'like' something to miss it. 'Like' is a weak connection, the scrawniest sister of affection.

A tug too far, and her hair starts to slide free of its constraints, stray strands springing and sliding into her field of vision. Having come to far, now, Bella tugs the tie out entirely and works it around her wrist, one handed, not about to relinquish her hold on the phone.

"Yes. Yes, please do, okay? I mean- I don't care about the place itself, really, but our things are there and-" Bella pushes the hair out of her face, the back behind her ears, "and I need somewhere to go after all of this is over."

That it will be over is something she must take on faith, much as she disdains the practice.

"How long can you stay on the phone?" sounds just a teensy bit more desperate than Bella would prefer, but under the circumstances she can find it in her heart to forgive herself.


The sift of a sigh warm through his sinuses drags on in direct proportion to the maths he is doing to determine how many felonies he's going to have to commit to make it happen.


A whole bunch.

Narrow jaw worked hollow through its flanks, Flint sinks the rest of the way back into his chair to loll his profile vacantly after the window. Pale light filtered in through dusty blinds, heater pitching fog thick over the side of a neighboring roof. "As long as I need to." No battery to die or signal to drop, on his end.

"What are you wearing?"

The sputtering sounds Flint hears next are distinguishable as laughter only when Bella opens her mouth to speak, her words choppy-breathed and a little high, and then there's no mistaking the sound for anything, not even the aural cognate of weeping. "You're fucking kidding me," she says, so apparently he's the joker responsible for her mirth, "a- a pair of slacks and a blouse that haven't been washed in a week. A bloodstained labcoat. Low heels."

There could hardly be a fonder way to add, "jackass."

She's calming down, the pace of her breathing growing more regular, the shuffle of unseen movement sounding smoother. She's letting her legs slip out, shoulders tipping back, propped against the wall. Bella quickly shifts the phone from hand to hand, newly freed digits reaching up to latch onto a shelf overhead.

"And what about you?" Bella asks, and then, upon further consideration, "why did you call?"

"Mad scientist chic," says Flint, "that's very you."

Too resigned-ly dry to be backhanded, he forces lingering tension out of his shoulders with a push and roll that lifts his spine away from soft leather and tips his skull sharp to the chair back.

"I'm not wearing anything."

A rustling fidget of thumb to collar to twist a pair of buttons loose there makes this approximately 2% more true. He sighs again — with a touch of a private leer, this time. Less dismal.

No answer on that last thing, though, unspoken implication all the more awkward for its — unspoken implication.

"Bullshit," Bella says, her smile audible in her voice and just little luminous in the light of the phone, "you don't have the balls. Or the forethought." She sifts in her seat, side to side, as she adjusts her labcoat beneath her, regulation minionwear, really. Sign of second rate villainy.

"If nothing else," she adds, a certain and note wholly unfamiliar meanness entering her voice, "you're wearing your boots. You wouldn't be caught dead without that bit of your anti-hero ensemble." Two can play, or some such.

Bella's been looking into the dark this whole time, 'til the little light in this space began to trace the outlines of the painted cinderblock walls. It disappears as she closes her eyes and tips her head to bump against the section behind her. "I have to check on a burn patient in five minutes," she says, as smoothly as she's said anything, "just what do you want?"

Flint is wearing his boots. The burnished brown caiman hide ones with scuff marks and scutes raised in a reptilian ridge down the midline. The ones he dropped nearly $4000 after whatever iteration of the Vanguard gave him an envelope full of money to shoot — some guys. Who probably deserved it. His memory blurs under a smear of paint thinner past a dropoff that may or may not have involved massive electrocution, leaving him to open his mouth belatedly just in time to close it again.

Because she has to check on a burn patient in five minutes.

Silence prevails on his end. More passive than aggressive. And with a sore air of butthurt while he leans forward to rest his elbows on the desk and screws his brows up at his pastry.

And so silence bears on for a little while, but it's not quite silence. There's the faint sizzle of air, the magnetic crackle of speakers. Bella's eyes remain closed, and her headache is still there, but it's less, so maybe those pills have kicked in. And maybe it will be gone soon. She could be so lucky.

"I asked you what you wanted," she says, enunciating clearly, "it wasn't rhetorical. Five minutes on the clock. What will you do with it? Listen." She leans over to one side, hanging by her arm as her hairs swings at an angle. She lifts the phone to the metal wiring of the shelf itself, and tap tap taps the metal with a fingernail, the phone's mic held overhead. She sets the phone to her ear again. "The ticking clock."

"I wanted — "

Time has passed. Since they were living together and since they last spoke. or touched. Enough for comfort zone to reclaim lost territory through days spent slapping people in the head and nights spent sleeping in Midtown. Flint has to squeeze an answer out of himself like a python to the caimen who became his boots, guts locked tight under pressure. "To talk to you."

To see you, is too insensitive. Considering. He rankles his nose anyway, grit teeth audible through the dusty iron grate of his voice.

A face peeks back through the doorway. This time Flint scowls at it. Mooo~~ooom.

She waves and ducks out again.

"Okay," Bella says, releasing her grip on the shelf and shifting back up into a proper sit, a posture more befitting, say, and adult. She sets her hand on her stomach, stares down her legs, trying hard to make out her own shoes in the dark. Are those reflections or- or is she just seeing things? She can't tell.

"When I was… maybe eight? I decided I wanted a bird. I took care of one for a neighbor, bird-sat, and I liked it. So I asked my parents and we went out to a pet store and bought this love bird, green, with a black mark on his back, sort of like a misshapen diamond," Bella's voice takes on a steady cadence in her recitation, "of course, that thing was horrible. Cleaning out its shit every day. Hearing it clatter around in there. Squawking. I don't know why it was so awful to me all of a sudden. Just something about how close it was, and how it was mine and I had to take care of it. Vulgar, squawking little thing.

"We sold it, to a love bird enthusiast who had just lost their own to some improbable accident, I don't remember the details. I'm sure the nasty creature had a happy life." Bella pauses here, maybe needing breath after her monologue, maybe figuring out just what she meant by telling him this.

"Still there?"

Flint's gone a little pale in the face for all that he's been quiet, dull-eyed mutt trying to calculate the connection between bark and zap collar. He's doing a lot of opening and closing his mouth without ever actually interjecting, fuzzy lines shadowed into the furrow of chin to neck when he lifts his eyes to check the doorway again and finds it free of skeletons.

So. After a while he says, "Yeah."

"Flin-" and this time she is only able to cut off the 't', her tongue stuck at the back of her teeth, frozen in momentary panic before slowly, carefully, returning to the bottom of her mouth. Bella takes a moment to feel embarrassed, and maybe just slightly paranoid. "You," she decides is grammatically feasible, if not particularly personal - but distance has its benefits, however few of them she is currently appreciating.

"I'm keeping you. Okay?"


If Flint still looks disconcerted through the steep peak of his brows and the slack of his jaw, he is probably within his rights. Looking at the phone as if he expects to find an explanation is a little dimly melodramatic, by contrast.

As it happens, Bella is also looking at her phone, squinting at the too-bright display with eyes adjusted to the dark. Making out the time, mounting in seconds, that the call has lasted. Noting her battery life. Noting the clock. All progressing due to to demands of their common entropies.

"I have to go," is a statement belied by, or perhaps underlined by, the active quiet that follows. No beep beep beep of disconnect. She's still there. Waiting for something, or waiting something out.

The clunky receiver Flint is wielding has no display. He's left to put it back at his ear accordingly, plastic to scrub brush bristle while he continues to list off balance in the relative quiet. Knows what he should say. Runs his tongue dry past his teeth and hunches against his own diaphragm again instead.

Technically he has the excuse of attempted deception while their conversation may be monitored, but something weird just happened and no telepathy or social skill is necessary to determine that her not hanging up immediately entails an expectant stretch of silence.

"Someone'll figure it out." Someone. Probably not him. Someone with Science on their side, or a volunteer-minded teleporter. Or. You know. Someone. His next hesitation is more loaded than the first. Almost there and a few cents short at, "I'm keeping you too."

"Yes," Bella agrees. A general affirmative. An affirmative of affirmation itself. "So I'll- see you at home." A little too blithely optimistic, insupportably so, and the previous composure of her tone slides with the failed half-joke. Whoops. The symmetry of his reply offset by her awkward answer, Bella steps back a moment, trying to figure out a balance. Ultimately, she can't summon the energy. It shouldn't matter, anyways. Not with him, right?

"Call me again, please," sounds unconditional until she adds a condition, "if it's safe. Stay safe and- just, when you can?" Her words come in short bursts, trying to stay apace with her stolen time. What's that sound, Dr. Sheridan? Tick tick tick.

"Yeah." He's already said 'okay,' a couple of times. So he shakes it up with another yeah instead, still hazy. Hazy enough that it's weathered in around his diction, even once he's scuffed the side of his stitched hand across his chin and forced himself into a hard blink. "I'll call again."

The same hand reaches around to slip his wallet out of its pocket. Warm from being sat on. Joseph's old number is in there somewhere. "Don't do anything I would do."

"I'll try," Bella says, and the laugh is back in her voice, but it's got a downwards lilt. A bent laugh. "Extreme circumstances, I can't promise anything."

For a moment, Bella lifts the phone from her ear and turns to press the back of her hand to her forehead, eyes closing. Headache… a dim echo, but one that may return. Duties… many. Too many. And- she allows herself to think no further. First things first.

"I'll talk to you soon," a vague deadline, or maybe just a little restored, tempered optimism, "goodbye."

She presses the 'end' button rather quickly. Flicks the phone closed. Sits in the dark. For one.



Up on her feet, through the door. Into whatever's next.

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