Women Seem Wicked


bella_icon.gif deckard4_icon.gif

Scene Title Women Seem Wicked
Synopsis Tired of Deckard giving her the runaround, Bella finally pins him down in a classy joint in Brooklyn to convey Abigail's letter and to dig after a few more personal concerns.
Date June 16, 2010


Evasive behavior was to be expected after their last meeting. Bella understands why Deckard isn't picking up his phone. It's only natural, considering his coping methods. However, as the lack of contact stretches into its nth day, it begins to grow frustrating. This letter, one she can not by any means speak of our convey the importance of her her employers, is burning a hole in her pocket.

So at last she takes more direct measures. The Company has ways of keeping tabs on their agents. It's a dirty move, and Bella didn't want to surprise Deckard but, after her initial attempts, he can pretty much consider himself fairly warned.

But here? Really?

It could be a lot worse. Burlesque, both the establishment and the performance style, tends towards the erotic rather than the purely objectifying, though that's not to ignore the presence of the latter in the gender relations it sets up. Bella has even seen some burlesque shows, at her college - she went to support a friend who was in it, doing a lounge singing/strip tease number. Not bad, if you're into that sort of thing.

And so Bella pays the cover and quickly scans the dim of the main room, checking first in the corners and by the walls. The places she'd expect him to be. Nearly. Far back, at a table, she sees the unmistakable gaunt angles of her patient. She gives a tiny huff. Ridiculous. The man who can see you through your clothes, hitting a strip joint. She doesn't bother to pathologize this. It would hardly tell her something new.

Inconspicuous as she can manage in mid-calf length skirt, button up shirt and small vest, the psychiatrist uses cover of music to mask her approach until she is directly behind Deckard. A hand reaches out to touch the back of his chair.


Let the question that lifts the end of his name refer to anything he wishes.

Slouched low in his seat, lax as he's likely to get and still be lucid after a single glass of whiskey on top of the pills he's taking for the many things currently wrong with him, Flint isn't all that difficult to pick out at a distance. His is a face difficult to mistake in the darkest and dankest of showrooms, and here, creative lighting throws his stag profile into magenta black lit or blazing orange relief frequently enough that he might as well be sitting closer than he is.

Predictably, in the spaces between strobes his eyes ring spectral blue.

And predictably, he stiffens visibly at the sound of a familiar voice. Bella's familiar voice.

Trapezi buckled into the back of his skull clench into thick cords; the elaborate cross inked into the scruff of his neck distorts and the Company's more familiar mark pulls slightly aside when he angles his head and sharpens his focus to account for a presence that he doesn't particularly care to see. Least of all here.

Chilly eyes tick face to long skirt in a pass of yellow light and then he's sitting forward again, presumably operating off the assumption that she has initiative enough to invite herself all the way into her own chair if she's made it this far.

Bella doesn't mind if she does!

The psychiatrist slips into the chair next to Deckard, neatly crossing her legs and smoothing out her skirt. The lines of her face are smooth, composed, but she isn't smiling. Nope. No smile for Deckard in the strip club, no matter how high class. Bella's hand moves into her vest, extracting something from an interior pocket. Poised as she is, it ought to be a cigarette case. She ought to motion to him diffidently for a light. She ought to, but she doesn't.

What she withdraws is a letter. She sets it on the table before him, turning it on the flat surface with her fingers until it faces him. A pointed gesture. Mail for you.

"I spoke with Abby," Bella says, "This is for you," her fingers haven't left the envelope - they form a lingering cage, a last barrier, "I haven't read it. No one has, to my knowledge," a beat, "Please, let's keep this between the three of us." And the hand lifts. All his.

Flint's leather jacket is familiar in that it's really his. His. Not chosen for him by some queer Company fashionista trying to emulate his taste or picked up secondhand at a thrift store earlier in the day. It smells more like booze and smoke than the rest of him, alcoholism worn deep into the leather the way it's worn into Flint's long face. Older than it should be.

Near-empty glass pushed restlessly around by the back of his weaker right hand, he doesn't smile back at her not smiling at him. He doesn't smile at the letter, either. And he definitely doesn't smile at the news that she's hunted him down on a super secret mission from Abigail that only the three of them can know about, "At the risk of your medical credibility?"

He could stand to say it louder, but the rough of his voice is audible enough beneath the bass thud of music that was a distraction rather than a nuisance five minutes ago. Left hand stretched to appropriate the letter for himself once her hand has lifted away, he gives her a slightly dirty look before he allows his eyes to dim. Then he starts to read.

Bella gives a light, pretty much purely fabricated laugh, adopting a momentary affectation, "Oh heavens no," she says, with exaggerated W.A.S.P.ishness "That went out the window when I signed on with the secret world government." The weird act drops like a curtain on a bad cabaret act. "I told you I wouldn't betray our trust again. It's a fairly arbitrary and stupidly exclusive principle to stand on, but I need something under my feet these days."

Either Bella is developing some sort of guerilla therapy technique, or she has recently tossed proper therapeutic procedure out of the same window as saw the defenestration of her medical credibility. Still, she's not so bad as to continue speaking as Deckard begins to read. She lapses into silence, letting her eyes rest first on him then, feeling like that alone is intrusive, turns her gaze to the dancers. She watches them for aesthetics, or she tries her best too.

One last sideways look with buggy eyes shows exaggerated, wary worry at her expense for the false laugh. Then there's the rest of the letter to read, envelope kicked back at her across the clean(?) table with a flick of his fingers once it's discarded.

It doesn't take him very long. Couple've minutes. And to his man-cred, there's very little to see in him in that span of time. Respiration doesn't change. Nor does his expression. Tension threatens to sketch at the back of his hands when he draws it up a ways to viddy the last few threads of text, but they don't elicit much more of a reaction than the first few. An ambiguous pull at the corner of his mouth later, he glances up and looks back to current company, brows lifted. Nearly expectant.

Bella actually keeps her gaze on the show for a noticable length of time, suppressing all urge to look back and try and read him. It's only after some fifteen seconds lined up lengthwise that she glances back to check on him, and catches his gaze. "You're done?"

She turns back to him fully, shifting in her seat to face him. "I admit, I would very much like to read that letter," she says, "I could come up with reasons why you should let me, too, but I think that would irritate you, so I'm just going to say I would like to, and that I would keep it entirely secret. As per our trust."

"It's nothing I didn't already know," dismissed without much feeling, vague dejection lies disguised in the quiet of his voice rather than anywhere more easily measured in twitch or strain. His long face is a little slack with inebriation but mild and his eyes take on their cold heat again as soon as he's glanced over Bella in the flesh and allowed himself a slow blink.

There's the moral question of Abigail's confidence to consider, of course, and his thumb tabs along the paper's edge to music's raw rhythm while he considers. Keeping it in his territory for now, as established by the splay of that same hand. "She's seeing someone else but she still loves me. Platonically. She wanted to have sex with me, but only in the past tense. And I might have cheated on her with a palm reader. That last thing is the only big surprise, really."

Bella purses her lips, "Honestly, that sounds like she wrote the letter for her own benefit, and not for yours. Confession, consolation, accusation. I think that's unkind. Bitchy, in fact. Of course, it could also just be how you related it to me. I can't know unless I read it for myself." She lets this fact hang - he can take it as he will. There is an bluntness in her voice though, when she delivers her criticism of the letter he told her he read. More than bluntness, too - fatigue and dislike. "I liked the woman I met well enough. I don't like the author of the letter you just described to me."

Shifty to his scruffy core, Flint lets reluctance color the sideways drag of his glare. It hardens into the fuzzy lines around his mouth, too — stark cuts of shadow leaned back from stage lights whenever they rove past. It's always the 'eventually' that matters most, though, and in this case — eventually — he slides the letter over closer to Bella so that he can use the empty span ahead of him to fold his arms and rest his chin in the nook behind them.

Bella leans forward and takes the letter in one hand. "Thank you," she says, and the tiredness and dislike are both gone. She's grateful. She wants to do the gesture of trust justice. And she also really wants to read this letter. She reaches into her jacket pocket and extracts a pair of reading glasses, setting them delicately on her nose, low, so she can read the letter while it is held discreetly below the level of the table.

Flint watches like a mutt feigning disinterest despite knowing it's at risk of being popped across the nose once she's done — radioactive eyes flicked over her way across the leather of his sleeve in irregular glances to mark progress and reaction when she moves to shift or breathe or wrinkle her nose. If she does at all.

He's quiet too, but that's hardly anything new, knit brow eventually turned down into the cool crook of his elbow. Now not only is he at a strip joint with the ability to see through clothes, he's at a strip joint and not bothering to see much of anything.

The quick motions of Bella's eyes, a fast left to right for each line, followed by a sharp cut back from right to left, set the pace of her reading. She doesn't take long, and there is no perceptible change in her expression the entire time - a less amazing feat coming from her than from him. When she finally looks up from the letter, her eyes find Deckard over the rims of her glasses.

"I like the author better now," Bella says, before setting the letter back down and sliding it over to him again, "But I still think she wrote it for herself. And I still think it's unfair. But then again, unfairness might not be entirely unforgivable, considering her circumstances."

Deckard is greying hair and beard growth perpetually bristling away from the Company barber's efforts to clip it into something passably professional. Also: hunched shoulders and bony elbows bent into a hide and bone barrier that he can see the frames of her glasses and the wide empty dishes of her eye sockets through when she looks over at him.

He doesn't say anything. The table smells like spilled beer and disinfectant and cheap cologne.

Bella removes her glasses and stows them in her jacket pocket once again. Her expression really softens for the first time since her arrival. "Why were you avoiding me, Flint?" she asks, opting for a straightforward appeal, "I am not upset, I am simply asking for a reason."

At length, Flint picks himself up enough to rest his chin on the table such that he can see her and she can see him again, folded arms still blocking out the lower length of his narrow jaw. He looks more rumpled than he did when he went under. More tired too, eyes ringed flat with static light in their otherwise inky hollows. There's a long-suffering air to the lines etched in across his forehead but not much else to be read in him beyond that. And he doesn't answer.

Bella's softness doesn't disappear, it just wrinkles. She lifts a hand to her forehead, eyes closing for a moment. Beneath the shadow of her hand, she suddenly looks very, very tired. Maybe unwell. Probably under-rested. When her hand falls, that impression has not disappeared, but her eyes are open and her gaze on Deckard. "I am risking my memories and quite possibly my life in getting this letter to you," she says, "I'm sorry. I don't want to use that as a bargaining chip. And I would never expect you to tell me anything you didn't want. I am your therapist, that would be inappropriate. But I do feel… I don't know," she pauses, separating herself mentally from the word she speaks, wrapping it in airtight mental plastic before uttering it, "Hurt."

All ready to go with a retort about how sloughing off a bunch of memories isn't all bad and sometimes you wake up and learn you're really an awesome secret agent and not a lifelong fuckup and felon, Flint doesn't get much further than hooding his brows down into a knit at her when the 'life' thing follows. Left to sort through the soaking mire of skepticism and bafflement that mucks his senses on his own while she goes on, he nearly misses the last thing she says — only tuning back in towards the tail end once her pause has soaked in long enough to be significant.

After the beat it takes for his brain to absorb the shock and reassume its natural form, he sits himself up into some semblance of straightness to better regard her. Leather creaks. So does his chair. And he continues to look doubtful all the way up until he dismisses his own fractured attempts at rationalization and shakes his head. "I don't understand."

Bella folds her hands on the table before her. She looks now, more than anything else, like a woman that needs a drink. Or maybe a few bong hits. To each their own. "Only because you don't want to," she says, "Which makes you try and not understand even harder, because you basically do. Deckard, I know you are capable of more than you've given me. And I do think it's important to go at a pace the client sets. But, after putting as much into this as I have, letting down as much rope as I can, it hurts me to see you inching up." She gives a short sigh. Disappointed, and directed at herself. "I am losing control. My apologies. This is not helpful or responsible of me."

Evidently still confused, Deckard declines to argue intent. He just kind of sits there instead, chilly eyes finding their way down to Abigail's letter sooner rather than later, though he doesn't reach to take it back up again. Feathers fluff in the background, lights all changing over to a still-worse shade of neon pink. "What do you want me to do?"

"I want you to communicate your state of mind coherently, at length, and with honesty," Bella says, enunciating clearly, "I want you to talk to me. I want you to believe, for once, that you might be helped."

"Okay," says Deckard.

It's hard to tell if he means it, what with 'okay' being one word and two syllables of equal parts quiet, moody and distracted agreement while he looks at a piece of paper instead of Bella. A fleeting glance up confirms that she's still there before his focus veers back to the girl currently on stage, feathers discarded first and foremost. "…Right now?"

"If you wouldn't mind," Bella says, with what can only be called primness.

More shifting. More uncomfortable silence. Flint touches at his glass and frowns at the table and curls his fingers restlessly back under his palms. "…Can you give me a prompt?"

"Please start with why you were avoiding me," Bella says, using words measured with titrated exactness, "About which I am not angry, simply curious."

"I tried to make a move on you," is a pretty straightforward explanation, really, for all his voice drops in volume again and he rankles his nose once it's said. Unease keeps him from finding any one steady thing to stare at, and in the ensuing silence, he rapidly begins to accumulate misery tell-tale in the familiar lines carved long around his face. This is a weird place to be having a talk like this in, one bass beat rolling undeterred by personal drama into the next.

"You made it sound like you didn't want me to assume I can't have — things. I was probably confused." He closes his eyes to scuff at his brow, an undercurrent of hard-bitten humiliation stiff at the bridge of his nose. "Subtextually."

"What you experience as subtext is most likely transference and projection," Bella explains, calm as anything, but very precise. It's like she's trying to make up for her period of not-so-slow collapse. She doesn't, however, speak leadingly. "The role I fill in your life resembles closely the roll of other women, with whom you had a different form of relationship. You interpreted what you saw in what I did and said as part of a larger pattern that, in your experience, involves intimacy." She nods, "Would you like to talk about your feelings for and about me? You're allowed to, and I will take everything you say with unconditional lack of judgment."

Deckard listens because he can't not, but by the time she's on into her second sentence he's turned his head to temper what she's saying at him with what's happening on stage. It's not enough, really, to outweigh his discomfort, though it seems like it probably should be. Especially once he's let his irises dim back into a more mammilian spectrum of seeing and some of the venue's warmth manages to creep into his read of stage and girl and general atmosphere.

"I like you better when you don't get what you want," is a confession made to his inevitable disadvantage. Also slow in coming.

This causes Bella to lift a hand to her mouth, covering a laugh. "Oh Jesus," she says, "Of course. It's basically conditioned by now. I've been incredibly stupid…" she shake her head, still much, much more amused than upset, "Damage done. Why do you think that is? Do you like that I don't get my way, or do you like me, as you phrased it?"

"I shouldn't like you," sort of leads into the answer by default, damage done on his end as well. Resigned, he curls paired fingers into his glass and hooks out a fast-fading piece of ice to grind between his teeth, then wipes the watery residue on his shirt.

"Why shouldn't you like me?" Bella asks, inevitably. An endgame, where stalemate is more often than not the result. She sits with statue-like implacability. Likely the only woman sitting, still, within the wide space of the main performance space. The club's lights shiver across her like the red white and yellow of passing cars over dark, still water.

"You're artificial and irritable. And you torture people." Deckard looks dead at her when he says so, aware of his own faults as anyone between slivers of whiskey-flavored ice, long fingers temporarily paused on their way to fishing out another. A twitch of his brows later, he recalls himself and is back to it, more zoo-bound gorilla than statue and less flattered by the light besides.

"And that perception, that knowledge, bothers you, precisely because it don't bother you enough?" Bella suggests, by way of extrapolation.

"Maybe the part where you tortured Joseph," confessed with less warmth (but no chill) once he's down another piece of ice, Flint doesn't reach for another, content to go back to pushing his glass back through its own ring of condensation now that he can see it instead. "The other stuff isn't so bad."

Bella is silent for a moment. She wants, very badly, to explain that she didn't torture, that in fact she allowed him to indulge his addiction without ever having to give into it himself. That, as far as deals go, that could be considered quite a good one. A guilty addict's dream. But she knows rightly just how horrific that would sound, if actually said aloud.

Instead she goes with: "I'm sorry. For what little it's worth." Very little indeed, considering that she's mostly sorry she kidnapped Joseph, only because his specific kidnapping is what brought gun wielding maniacs down on her. Consequence, rather than action, is what she regrets.

An unenthusiastic roll at Deckard's near shoulder is kind of like a shrug. Not quite a whatever so much as maybe a slouchy okay but why bother for attempted apology. He isn't interested. In fact, probably the less time he spends thinking about the entire situation, the better. There are lines starting to stand themselves out in his neck in an unconscious bristle again even though he's trying hard to steady his attention on center stage, the hard edges of his long face turned a full ninety degrees away.

Tilting back into silence.

It's a silence that persists for a lingering while. Bella's run out of padding between her and the rather off topic question that is chewing away at her, as it must, in the wake of Project Delphi. Letter, check. Previous session's issue, check (sort of). Avoidance, check. And now…

"I'd like to ask you about what you saw, when you blacked out. When a large section of the city blacked out." Without preamble and without warning. It's not a direction question, of course. She'd 'like to ask'. Giving him just enough room to wiggle free rather than stonewall, if he should choose. She'd rather the former to the latter.

Flint's eyes sharpen back into more penetrative focus when he swivels his head around to measure her, loose skin bunched at his neck where the alignment of his shoulders remains more open to the stage. He is doing distance vs direction vs velocity calculations all at rapt attention, possibly more single-minded than he should be over the slow rise of his chest and one sleeve braced lazily across the table edge, denting the leather.

"What did you see?" asked with a veneer of lukewarm suspicion, x-ray vision picks an inopportune moment to flicker, long shadows passed over his skull selling out the lapse where a rolling glance of show lighting might have masked it.

"I'm not sure I should say," Bella says. She's not being an informational coquette. She has her reasons. "I was speaking with you at the time. However briefly. But considering the circumstances, I…" she pauses, "These were precognitive events. All of them. But knowledge of the future changes it. It reinscribes itself. So telling you… it might change things. And I don't know how or in what way. And, as I said, considering the circumstances - I seemed to be in some clear and present danger." This is all stated with a careful composure, one part reaction to her previous breakdowns, one part sense that whenever talking about the future, a deft hand and cautious voice should be used.

Silence reigns on the far side of the table, broken superficially when Flint's hand finds its way around a coaster and turns it up onto one edge only to tap it over to the next with a turn of his fingers. He watches her while he does it, digesting because he doesn't have much of an option otherwise. Aside from getting up and walking out, that is, the location of the door a prickle at his far side while the coaster is exchanged for the tab that was pinned beneath it. "Where were you?"

She can't tell whether or not Deckard's question is apropos of what she saw. Bella can't assume there was overlap in the visions. Overlap is far from guaranteed from what evidence she's seen. But on the off chance… "I never got the chance to tell you," Bella replies, "I started, but I got disconnected," a beat, "I was on a payphone." Or will be on a payphone.

Once the tab is examined and another piece of fast fading ice is hooked out and ground down, Flint scrubs the same hand over his face and reaches back around for his wallet. "I find you," he says, in part to the table, "we've taken shelter in an abandoned theater and are having sex to burn off adrenaline while we wait out the chaos."

"Are we using protection?" Bella inquires, wearing a pretty good poker face, save for the fact that it's evidently a poker face.

"Always." Naturally. Deckard thumbs out a ten that looks like it might not outlive another trip through the laundry and leans forward to stuff the wallet back into his pants and stand in the same slightly unbalanced movement.

"Well, that's a relief," Bella says. Her eyes cut down to the ten. Money has been extracted. A clear sign this meeting is coming to an end. If she wants to quit skirting around the particulars, this would be the time.

"I was on Hunter Street." There. It's out there. If saying so changes things, so be it.

Still too boozed after what looks like a single stiff drink to have much hope in the realm of poker faces, Deckard lets relief show in a glance aside and some slacking at the clamp of his jaw. "Okay," sounds softer. Pathetically grateful, even, in the incontrovertibly stupid way of someone who should know better as he reclaims Abigail's (now damp) letter lankly in hand.

He hovers awkwardly for a beat or two longer than he should, then turns to steer for the exit, using unoccupied chairs to balance himself occasionally along the way.

Bella watches Deckard as he vacates, watches until he's (mostly) safely out the door. There's a urge to escort him, to mother him back to wherever he's staying, to make sure he doesn't drive or do anything stupid. But any such gestures, by her own diagnosis, run the risk of further misinterpretation. Headaches she doesn't need right now. Unkindly, too, she knows that her concern for him is now inseparable from a concern for herself, clouds of mud in the never all that clear waters of her altruism.

She extracts a her wallet from her purse and plucks out a crisp new five to augment Deckard's ten, slipping it over the weathered bill. She rises, and leaves this place behind.

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