2010-08-14: Waste Of Paint



Date: August 14, 2010


"At some point in life the world's beauty becomes enough. You don't need to photograph, paint or even remember it. It is enough." — Toni Morrison

"Waste of Paint"

Lizzie and Sydney's Townhouse

For the first time in weeks the kitchen is entirely alight with every blind and every window opened, finally sucking some of the stuffiness of the townhouse. Leerily, the blonde therapist peers out one of them cautiously; the street itself has been quietly safe. Her lips press together as she turns to face the wall, the canvas of choice. Dressed in a man's denim shirt that's already stained with paint, indicating that she has used it for this activity before, Sydney finally pours some of the paint into the tray, but only after tying a blue bandana around her hair, tugging all of the rebellious strays behind it.

She'd set up the poly along the floor the night before and prepped the wall for the sage to be rolled over it, and had borrowed a ladder from her neighbour after a long lecture about how everybody should own a ladder.

A wry smile is given to the handyman before she reaches for a paint brush rather a roll. "I think I should cut in. I have really steady hands — could've been a surgeon in another life."

"For some reason, I believe that." Conveniently, the shoulder that the handy consultant glances at her over is the one to which those hands have attended. But the site of that unofficial stitching is hidden today under the fitted black trappings of a t-shirt, decorated in a few spots with the silver and white of its design, but otherwise dark all over. His jeans are worn, torn, and also too long, with cuffs folded over a few times but still dragging along toes and the sheets protecting the floor. "But then you went and were a therapist." As he turns to the wall again, he taps a — so far clean — roller against his jaw, fingers twitching along the handle with the itchiness of inactivity.

Despite the early morning hours, and the insistence that he only had two of those sugary donuts he brought around, there's been an antsy buzz around Laurie this time — recently translated into the speedy completion of remaining painting preparations, to which Sydney now joins.

"It's a good color — sage." He decides, staring at the unpainted wall as though the color were already applied.

"I think it'll make the kitchen less empty-feeling." Carefully, the therapist clambers up the ladder, tray in hand. At the top she rests the tray and busies herself with her work. But after beginning the work, it's her turn to look over her shoulder, "It was all very accidental. From start until finish." Carefully, she brings that sage into the corner along the ceiling, thankful for the blue painters tape edging the ceiling.

Again she looks over her shoulder, her tone edges on bitter, even as the words are hollowed out with the cool detachment she craves and subsequently forces, automatically making it less detached than she intends, "I should've listened for once." Her gaze lingers on Laurie for a few moments before she hmmms, "You seem… off today. Too many sugared donuts? Or have you taken to guzzling gallons of coffee before coming over because we're so exhausting— "

During Sydney's ladderly ascent, Laurie's spare hand strays there, at first brushing against the therapist but soon falling to the ladder, itself, giving the piece a steadying hand as she goes. "Accident is the name of the greatest of all inventors." The second time she glances, he catches her eye, the studious pleasantness unmoved from his face versus her new tone. "So you're…" But she gets to him first, and he cuts off at the sound of her observation — a twitch of his mouth closing before he smiles.

"Exhausting? Never!" It was irritation, that twitch, but there isn't a single visible sign on him that this could possibly be true. "Who said that? I'll fight them." In the midst of turning the roller about and evaluating its use as a dueling weapon, he asides in the most casual manner available to speech: "Unlike all those other times you're very glad you never took the advice of others?"

"I said that! It was me!" The bold declaration is accompanied with quirked lips and a raised free non-painting hand — ensuring Sydney full credit — while the therapist continues to face the wall. Lips straighten and her tone neutralizes after she clears her throat, "I don't think you want to fight me though, I'm very scrappy." The hand only remains in the air for an instant before she clamps it back on the ladder — it's her anchor.

Her lips frown and knuckles whiten, fingers curling tightly around it. Shoulders sink as her teeth scrape against her bottom lip, her old habits persisting despite herself only causing her fingers to tighten even more and her painting hand to pause mid-stroke. Consciously, she forces herself out of the stillness, "It depends on the advice, really. I should've listened more than I didn't. Except when I shouldn't have. People have opinions on everything and they always think they know better."

Turned about from his previous position, Laurie rests lightly against the wall, able to aim his gaze along it to watch her. The roller is yet wielded, not quite ready to abandon the fight, and he swings it a few times in the air in front of him. "You should've listened more, except when you shouldn't have, because people have too many opinions, but could possibly have good advice." Paraphrasing purposefully tuned to sound like he's making sure he understands, but the eyes on her are full of more understanding than that. "You can run yourself down with circular reasoning."

Where the ladder is her anchor, his grip remains an attachment, making a subtle climb, finger over finger, towards her own clamped hand. But just to rest there. Nearby. If he stretches, he just taps her on the knuckle — a bit of a cool, brief, touch, letting her know he's there. "You know, Sydney," it's not advice if she already knows; or, it's at least lacking a lecture's condescension, "Whatever you want to be right now: happy, detached, frightened — pissed off at the world. You can be it. Right here. I don't matter," an oddly timed exhale, "to that."

The paraphrase causes her to freeze again, grasp easing against the ladder some under the touch (that leaves a streak of green paint on her hand), her features sinking considerably. With a heavy sigh, the arm falls to her side, marking that oversized shirt with a single smudge of sage. Facing him, that lip is still gnawed, as her numbness falls away. "I…" her cheeks flush underneath all of these emotions — everything at once rising to the surface, but what does she want to be? For the days she's been home, little feeling has escaped; she hasn't it let it. And not for lack of want.

Dark eyes blink fiercely as she bites harder on her bottom lip, her emotions teetering somewhere between rage and terror — the two things she's pressed beneath the surface for weeks. "I hate them. The son of a bitch who did this to me — The FBI… I want… I want to be happy… I want to stop …" Her stoicism fails her, melting into tears that exist somewhere between fear and anger. With a gasp of breath, she croaks, "Will it ever stop?"

Laurie's jaw tightens and unclenches several times in an exercise of control, only a brief distraction as, from the moment of first tears, his hold to the ladder becomes the hinge by which he swings himself around to stand at the bottom of it. Now the hands by her, on and around her, seek to guide the therapist down the steps to a place a bit more balanced — and away from a wall with fresh paint. Towards him, really, waiting at the bottom, with a smile only a touch thinner than before. "Aww, come on, see what I've done now."

A touch that does it just the same: unbidden and unplanned, he passes a hand along the bandana keeping her hair in check and there Sydney is — only it's just an image of her, not the real her. An image that is smiling completely without reservation, sunshine illuminating her hair like a halo. Sunshine that whites the image out. No, not white. It's black. Silence. Stillness. It's absolutely nothing. —— blood!

And Laurie, smile unaffected by any other truths, has let his hand pass to her denim shoulder. "There will always be things to work through. But if you want to be happy, screw everybody — be happy."

Slowly guided down the ladder, Sydney feels considerably more balanced on the floor until she lets herself fall against him again, wrapping her arms around him. Her sleeve is run over her cheeks, that too-big-for-her shirt working well to sop up the tears. With a loud sniff she shivers slightly at the flash of images, but even when tears roll down her cheeks her lips edge upwards.

With a little nod, her face flushes lightly. "Screw them," she agrees with a quiet cough and tiny nod. She takes another deep breath, allowing her hands to fall away from him again. The smile grows into a broadened toothy grin with fresh moisture still lining her eyes.

Stepping back she looks up at him and asks, that smile still present, "And what makes you happy, Laurie?"

It's getting to be a familiar position for them — her fitting against him, but with his arms never quite completing the embrace, always stopping just at the line that her shoulders make. Laurie seems happy enough at the sight of her as she settles backwards, centered in his vision and grinning. A touch of thought is flavored by emotion akin to doubt, yet remains too close to the realm of clinical fact to really grasp a feeling. It's really only a flicker in his eyes observing her before it's gone.

There's hands now at either side of her, paint roller demoted to the floor, and as he brings them around, he glances at the ceiling, rocking his head sideways to illustrate his great relaxation in the matter, "My overwhelming desire to be so." It's half a joke — it's also half more serious than it should be.

But at the same time, those palms come up along her jaw, treating the lines of her face as thumbs peek around her chin and encourage her look up while tracing the very edge of her lips. Proof of that smile in the feeling. "But this will do, too."

Look up she does, that smile growing as he traces her lips, finding more security in all of her features, including her dark eyes that sparkle with some unspoken secret delight. "It only works because I look like Aunt Jemima. A much paler version, but…" fingertips graze the bandana. Then lowering her hand, she spies that streak of paint at the back of it. Her nose wrinkles.

Gaze turns downward before her weight shifts to step around him, back towards the brushes and paint cans. Having left one open, she scrapes a brush along the inside of the lid to save any still-wet paint. Or, that's what she'd like Laurie to believe.

With her newly wettened paint brush poised as her weapon she twirls around to streak his shirt with that sage green. "Scrappy~" she virtually sings.

"Oh yes, silly me. That must be it," Laurie eases away when she does, turning his attentions to the ladder she left, spotting with a slightly upturned chin the progress that she made before their little intervention. Whatever Sydney's doing behind him seems hardly noted until, sensing her approach, he turns to greet her. "So are you going to be any help, or am I going to— " And then there it is: sage against black, and into a little bit of the silver.

He blinks widely, dropping his chin to stare at the spot as though it had mortally wounded him, then up to her, then back down at it. Then — his arm raises and, weaponless, he chooses to swiftly draw his thumb across her forehead, creating a nice thick line there over its length. Joke's on her; it would seem if she could look, a similar match of streaks would already be giving her a sage goatee from his previous, seemingly affectionate touch a moment before.

The look he gives her, lips out in petulance, eyebrows raised in challenge, dares the next move even as he stands there, arms slightly spread out in mock innocence. He's still, after all, an unarmed man.

Something between a delighted squeal and giggle escapes Sydney's lips, especially at the challenge. Her cheeks brighten further. If there was any doubt her happiness was disingenuous, her general manner tells a different story.

The streaks on her face outline a lopsided grin, mischievously comical from its inception. Even with Laurie unarmed, the therapist wields her paint brush like it's a sword, an extension of herself, and her lifeline for this assumed fight. Her eyes narrow at Laurie, but the grin persists and cheeks flush brighter. "Ha!" The brush is twisted in her hand before she lunges forward to streak his face with that same paint, and leaving herself somewhat vulnerable in the process.

Ah!— he takes the hit, a glancing blow — but a sacrifice purposefully made, and nearly deflected when he dodges to the side and then swoops in towards her. Laurie exposes her vulnerability not only by moving but by the effortless way he can get his arms around her unprotected middle, catching her entirely up and, with a bit of a heft, slung over his shoulder. Once she's so captured, he loiters, unconcerned at his exposed back, and instead meandering towards the paint bucket with a bit of a whistle.

There's a pause mid-step there and he wiggles his toes underneath the handle of the left paint roller, sliding it carefully onto his foot then artfully raising a knee and — jerking up so that the roller flies right up and to where he can catch it in a free hand.

"Ahhhhh!" the scream is more delighted than the squeal-giggle moments earlier as Sydney is hoisted above Laurie's shoulder. She giggles madly at the game as she twists up there far more convincingly than when he'd carried her out of her solitary confinement. Her feet kick up and down and she wriggles like a three year. The brush strokes along the back of his shirt with increasingly faded lines (with the paint being worn off it). She twists a little more to paint the back of his head now, still rather pleased with herself and this assumed game, yet still shrieking loudly, "Eeeeeeeeeeeeee!"

"Ahhhhhhhhh!" knowing full well she's about to get painted her entire body tenses like a board, stiffly uncooperatively in his grasp.

No amount of her wiggling seems to much affect him and his steady death-march towards the tray of paint and its sage execution for the trapped therapist. As his shirt turns increasingly more saturated with the stuff, even as that on the brush thins out, it begins to stick slightly, catching on the bristles and tugging up every now and then. And wherever it does, skin awaits: and the red welted hint that it isn't exactly healthy skin. But with the sensation of brush to the back of his head, Laurie shakes, dispelling everything into place as he gives Sydney a playful bounce against him. "I hope you had your fun, because now— "

Bzzzt. Now, apparently, something is going to vibrate in the consultant's pocket. Then it picks up with a muffled melody not quite audible inside the boundaries of clothing. Between one hand keeping Sydney in place, and the other all prepared with a paint-soaked roller, the ringtone is allowed to go on unanswered by him.

"Eeeeeeeeeeeeee!" with another loud squeal she squirms again. Sydney's eyes clamp shut, she kicks her legs, and she clings tightly to the paint brush, even though she's out of ammunition. "Eeeeeeeeee!!" And then the phone.

Her arms raise into the air (or rather, behind Laurie) triumphantly as she makes a very loud declaration, "Saved!!!" And squirms again only more on-beat with that muffled melody in a pseudo victory dance. And then quieter, and a little too-pleased-with-herself she quips, "You should probably get that! Could be important~ Maybe a cupcake emergency~" And forget about painting her. And then, as if to allay any objections, she squirms again like she fully expects to be returned to the ground, "I never liked this shirt, anyways… it won't…. it isn't… I never liked it. So… logically… it doesn't need to be painted…" Yes. Logically.

Fingers were even separating from the roller handle to dig sideways into his pocket when suddenly Laurie pauses, letting the ringtone go on unheeded and ignored. "You know what— just for that." And, free of phone obligation, he gives the roller a first test run across Sydney's lower back. "Oh, that's lovely. This is some fine class piece of painting equipment." Her squirming earns her another jostle, "Hmmm. That's very interesting. I would so much like to hear the logic behind why my head needed a recolor."

That last movement dislodged her, though, and after some effort he's forced to slacken his grip some, giving her a chance to slide down, should she like it — though that would put her just right in front of the ready and waiting roller.

"Well clearly it's because I like your head. Shirt, no recolour. Head, recolour." And then amid several distinct snickers she smirks, "My logic is infallible." She giggles again as she slides from his shoulder and holds up her hands, indicating some measure of surrender as she shifts her weight. Just a little. Just enough. It's a tell really, if he lets her go unscathed, she's likely going to reload. Don't trust her, Laurie! She's scrappy.

That glimmer of mischief has only increased, even as she stands here at his mercy. Her joy and delight are palpable in the room, permeating its very air and extending to all corners of her little home. Even in her surrender she's beaming.

"You— like my head," he echoes with bemused skepticism as she slips down against him to the floor, "And, apparently, my shirt which is… unfortunate, because it isn't quite itself these days…" Or just in the last several minutes. Laurie sort of grabs the edge of the t-shirt, tugging the front away from his stomach to examine the sagely addition there. To signs of surrender, one must remember they're being given to an aged behavioral consultant. He tilts his head at her, his expression maintaining the same wry amusement as he spoke with, and then lifts an arm lazily to give her a pat on the cheek — a paintless pat on the cheek. Perhaps unscathed, after all…

Until that hand transforms into a grip on her bandana, tugging it backwards and away from covering her just in time for him to raise the roller and swipe a direct path across the top of her head. All with the exact same straight face. Happiness that she radiates gives a gleam to his blue eyes, a spark, but he gives no other tell even after the deed is done.

The pat on her cheek is met with a distinctly different expression. Her cheeks redden, the mischief fades from her eyes, and her lips soften into a much smaller, borderline serious, smile. The grasp on the bandana, however, drops Sydney's jaw in what could be genuine shock and then another playful shriek as her blonde locks are successfully painted green.

Now mock shock registers over her face. Her mouth gapes. Her eyes widen. Her body freezes. But her dark eyes are her tell. They reflect an increased amusement, clearly thrilled at the game and not caring about her now-green locks.

And then, with mock horror, she gasps, "My hair!" Her lips twitch with a small betrayal of her current emotions.

"Your hair!" Two can play at this game — and Laurie sounds just as scandalized as she does, despite being the reason her locks are no longer waves of wheat. "Oh God," the tone persists, sheer disbelieving, and completely over-dramaticized, "I must like your hair. How terrible for you!" With a serious inhale, his mouth draws into a thin line of shouldered responsibility. He'll just have to make this easier — namely, by scrolling the roller directly down her left side from shoulder to elbow. "And now your arm. Does this liking know no reasonable bounds?" His voice teeters on the edge of a chuckle, his grip readjusting and being the thing to give him away for a second movement that might paint her other side the same.

At this point, the phone pipes up a second time as well, not willing to be ignored quite so easily.

Sydney's cheeks flush a little brighter at the words, try as she might to fight it, that happiness that won out also makes hiding her emotions nearly impossible; she can't bring any of her defence mechanisms to mind, making her more vulnerable than she's accustomed. However, she gasps loudly as the roller is pulled across her arm. Shock and horror. Or rather, fake shock and horror. "You got me!" Her eyebrows knit together as she pulls her right arm behind her back, a sure-fire way to get painted someplace else. Her already 'maimed' left arm is held out as a kind of shield to protect the rest of her.

And then the phone. Again.

"Maybe someone needs you to make them dinner — that'd be a pretty dire emergency… OR maybe MAYBE someone wants to give you a lifetime supply of chocolate. I call dibs on the first piece. I could really go for chocolate right now." She grins.

Indecision is evident this time, as his eyes flicker from her and her half-guarded arm to the pocket where the phone is. Laurie only breaks the thought process to roll his head vaguely to the side, towards the entryway of the apartment, "There's Kit-Kats in my bike jacket." Even with the fight seemingly on hold, and his face has grown vaguer with curiosity towards the call, as he twists in his spot, he reaches a last time to wave the roller at her menacingly — this isn't over.

Then a hand drops to his pocket, fishes, and appears with the insistently buzzing apparatus. Now the strains of polyphonic tone can more clearly be heard: workin' nine to five, what a way to make a livin'… — flip. "You got Miles."

The therapist straightens considerably, her excitement building at the notion of chocolate. Haughtily, she turns on her heel, humming the Kit-Kat jingle, convinced she's won this round thanks to the phone call. Light feet skip to the jacket and pluck a single Kit-Kat from it. She turns back to the kitchen as she peels open the package and breaks a piece of the chocolate bar, offering it to the consultant with that still brightened smile.

Another piece is broken from the bar and is placed triumphantly in her mouth with a pleased crunchy bite before dipping her paint brush in the still opened bucket, she's reloading.

Not so fast! As soon as Sydney's back is turned, Laurie dips forward, reaching out with the roller hand to get her right on the spine until she's out of range. "Like your back!" An exclamation made almost directly into the phone, despite being called after the therapist. A slow side-step meanders him in a half-circle as the voice on the other end of the line picks up, just a murmur to Sydney's point of view, it raises Laurie's hand and has him tapping the roller idly against his leg, leaving little mostly dried paint spots here and there on his jeans.

Sight of chocolate and therapist raises his head, pulling both his mouth and apparently attention from the phone as he twists his palm somewhat away from the roller handle to reveal that it is also covered in green — hardly acceptable to take the Kit Kat. Other fingers holding the cell, he brings it forward just briefly to straighten a finger and point at his own mouth in instruction.

But when he goes unfed, and she goes to reload, Laurie clucks his tongue in disappointment and speaks to his unfortunate caller. "Who wants me?"

"Well that won't do— " Sydney murmurs to herself rather than Laurie when she steps forward again after finishing her own piece of chocolate and abandoning the rest of the bar on the counter along with her paint brush which she's left resting on the paint can lid.

In one hand she holds that piece of chocolate. And in the other? She's poised for silent negotiation, holding out her right hand for the roller as she essentially dangles that delicious piece of chocolate in front of him, her eyes gleam with a bright playful mischief, still convinced she can win this round.

Her unspoken delight shapes over her expression tugging at her lips and forming creases along her eyes; a delight that persists despite the cracked feeling of dried paint on her skin.

Talking is happening on the other side again, leaving Laurie free to eye Sydney with the protruded mouth of silent ooohh, partially in appreciation of her tactics, the other parts made of mock disgust for those same ones. Hefting up a better, non-surrendering grip on the roller, his eyes don't leave her, even as he offers a hum of attentiveness to the phone. But when he refocuses on Sydney, his tune has changed. That brightness of challenge lifting his eyebrows now melts away as they lower, tugging down the same as the corners of his mouth as he offers her a sullen but wistful depression at being denied the chocolate that sustains him.

After a moment of this, the phone is pulled away from his ear, tucked against his shoulder so he can address the therapist in the room openly. "For the record — Detective Powers wants me." Then it's lifted again and he, with a voice unaffected by his facial tendings, comments, "That sounds like a super vacation. Have you had breakfast?"

Despite what she'd have her clients believe, Sydney is a sucker for pouts. With a heavy sigh she slouches, whether the reaction is from the defeat or the looming exit of the consultant is unclear, but when Laurie's mouth opens again she plops the piece of chocolate in his mouth. Silent steps pad around the island before she turns back to face the wall, hands finding her hips and determination wielding its power against her.

She clasps the paint brush she'd left resting on the lid, only to close the can again, lest she let a thin layer of paint dry at the top. Attention is then returned to the wall itself while she teases lightly despite her former silence, "You just know I'd win the paint war so you've found an easy way out!" Her eyes light, yet they're a little tinged by an unspoken disappointment, left only for the most avid observer.

It was opening, perhaps, to emit sounds but Laurie's mouth will accept the chocolate nonetheless, and he grins merrily — and a bit triumphantly — around the shape of the Kit Kat bar his teeth have grasped. Chewing happens, crunches here and there as he slides the candy into the cheek opposite the phone and swallows before he has to speak into it. Throughout, his eyes track Sydney, not with a narrowed focus but enough that he notes positions, is watching when she looks away. But he's talking to someone else: "Just for you, Powers." Slipped away from his ear, the phone is simultaneously snapped shut and then drawn to his pocket, where his hand lingers.

Patient and steadily timed, his steps take him up to where Sydney and the unfinished wall wait. "You've got me all figured out, therapist," he agrees to her amiably, glancing aside to her and then, with the upmost seriousness that it deserves, he ceremoniously offers to the nearest hand the handle of the paint roller. "I guess you'll just be stuck with me another day."

"Ahhh. So I will see you again…" Sydney issues him a faint smile, weakened compared to the one pre-phone call, but still present. "You just wanted to get out of painting…"

Paint roller now in-hand, Sydney holds it in the air in a salute, accidentally smattering flecks of paint along her temple and right hairline, in turn, yielding a toothy grin at her own perceived clumsiness. Not that it matters terribly. Thanks to Laurie's handiwork, she's going to be extra thorough when shampooing her hair next.

The last remnants of a smile edge her lips, "Thank you for your help and what we did get done…" Her expression turns more serious, the smile fading entirely for now, "And Laurie… be careful?" the inflection causes the statement to come out as a question, a small request.

There is due consideration given these evaluations of him, the last of which Laurie squints at, nose wrinkling disdainfully, "You say such mean things. You may like me for my shirt and the back of my head, but I don't think you like me at all." All told, he returns the salute with one of his own, boringly executed with just a hand — though it is a hand smeared in sage paint around each finger. He's aimed to turn away from her and take his leave when the sound of his name brings his face around to her, a gentle "Hmm?" acknowledging the use.

The quietness of the moment is briefly infectious, softening his own merriment to respect the seriousness. Briefly. In the next second, he's got a thumb up at her face and with a soft tap, has left his print right on her nose. But gently: "Like your nose."

Now he takes a step backwards, turning in the next to carry him across the kitchen, with a bit of a hop-skip last step crossing from one room to the next. Ruffling sounds signal him attempting to pick up his riding jacket without recoloring it as well, his somewhat awkward pulling of arms through sleeves is a success, but one well worked for. Then, after the stillness of preparedness that should signal leaving, his head pops back into her view as he leans across archways with a look of complete and intense concentration.

"What would be the strangest food to bring into a lab with a dead body?"

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