Breaking Fast

Participants:

devon_icon.gif emily_icon.gif jared_icon.gif

Scene Title Breaking Fast
Synopsis Well, this was awkward.
Date November 3, 2018

Jared Harrison's apartment


Brunch?

It was a simple request sent to Emily’s phone the evening before, lacking preamble as it usually does, but it was followed several minutes later by an address and time. That was all before Devon bothered to ask Jared about having a friend over, since it’s actually Pops’ place and not his own. It was also before asking if feeding the friend was even a possibility. He didn’t think it would be a terrible burden and even spent the remainder of that evening and part of the morning of finding foodstuffs.

The rest of the morning was given over to preparations. That, wisely, did not include him taking any part of the cooking. Food was meant to be eaten and that wouldn’t be possible of the young man did anything more than make sandwiches, or push buttons on a microwave.

He’s helped in other ways, like setting the table and mixing things. And all the while Dev’s kept up his half of the conversation. Mostly with explaining at least eight-seven times and counting why he’d invited Emily over. “I just told her Liz was gone.” It’s basically the same thing that he’s said before. “But now…” He scrubs the back of his neck while looking at the older man. “Pops, she’s going to think I’ve lost it.”

Of course feeding whatever friend Devon wants to have over is going to happen. Jared enjoys cooking, although perhaps not quite as much as Liz and her mother did. Brunch is a simple affair — bacon, dear as it is, even makes an appearance. Eggs and milk are relatively easy to obtain and flour not too hard. The older man works on shredding some cheese for omelettes while Devon putters. His blue eyes flicker toward the boy.

"I'm still not sure why you think you need to share this. The more people who hear about it, the more likely we are that things go sideways." Jared sets the cheese down and leans on his hands on the counter, looking over at the table. "It's a big risk, Devon." He trails off and looks toward the windows, where the morning sun shines in. "If someone tries to stop them…" He looks back to his 'grandson.' "It's taken me some time to believe Richard… if they don't make it here, I'm not sure I can take the heartbreak, kiddo."

After checking the unit number on her phone one last time, Emily sluggishly reaches for the apartment door, knuckles curled. Sure, she was happy to have obliged, but … this was a little close since their last meeting. Upgrading from public places to a residence wasn't something she expected, either. Her outstretched hand is pulled back to her face, brushing her bangs away while she steadies the wheel of her chair with the other. In the pause, she coughs roughly.

There's a brief moment of suspicion she does her best to shove down by reaching out to knock roughly on the door before she can second-guess herself. Or third-guess, at this point. Her hand falls back to her lap afterward, adjusting the strap of the small bag worn over the top of the three-quarter-sleeve emerald shirt she wears, resettling it under the hood of her thin black zip-up.

“Because…” There’s a really good reason for why Devon would be giving up secrets of this nature, he’s just not sure how to put it into words. “She doesn’t have to know the whole of it, the parallel worlds or the tech.” He doesn’t doubt that Emily would be able to guess that there’s something of the extraordinary in the works — he might have mentioned the whole gravity well thing just a few days ago — but the details, the important and dangerous bits and pieces, he can keep to himself.

“I know it’s a risk. I know it’s just as dangerous to get my hopes up.” Nothing ever happens as planned. He slowly pushes his shoulders upward, shrugging at his lack of solid explanation.

He circles around the table once, straightening those things that don’t need to be straightened. Small actions that keep him from focusing too hard on the problem. “I think she should at least know that — ” His head turns quickly to the sound of knuckles tapping the door. “Maybe this wasn’t a great idea.” For all his earlier resolve, now he’s second guessing himself.

The knock sounds and Jared pushes off the counter, shooting Devon a faint smile. "Little late now, isn't it?" The curl of his lips might be a reminder of the wicked twist of smile Liz occasionally got when Dev was digging himself a hole — part unholy glee to see what he does next to dig it deeper and part sympathy for the kid. "Guess we'll see what plays out." Because hey… nothing says it has to be more than brunch introducing a girl to your grandfather!

Jared jerks his chin toward the door. "Go be a gentleman," he encourages.

Emily only nods at Devon when the door opens in, rolling herself into the entryway as quickly as she can in lieu of remaining outside. She warily eyes the width of the hall and doorways once inside, hand lingering by the lock of her wheel before withdrawing. She'd give it a shot — and hopefully not get stuck trying to enter the kitchen. It looked wide enough, at least. The whole place did, surprisingly.

She's halfway turned to greet him when something about the air hits her, her brow raising. "You've already been cooking?" she asks dubiously in lieu of actually saying hello. It smelled like bacon. Where had he gotten that? Hopefully it wasn't burned. It didn't smell like anything was burning, at least. Huh. Maybe he wouldn't need her help after all?

He should expect that no lifelines would be given, but Dev can’t stop the look for help that he shoots at Pops anyway. At least it’s masked by the door. After Emily is inside, he pushes the door closed and folds his arms over his chest. It’s a habit held over from his adolescence.

The idea that he might have been cooking causes a brow to tick upward, and he shoots a look to the older man.

“Actually, Pops has been cooking.” Devon pushes a shoulder up slightly to shrug. “Emily, this is Jared — Pops.” He looks at his grandfather figure again and tilts his head toward the woman. “This is Emily.”

The older man comes around the kitchen's peninsula to hold his hand out. "Emily, it's very nice to meet you." Jared's smile is easy, and he seems to have no issues with the chair or anything else, but he seems to have a pretty astute set of blue eyes on him. "Can I get you a drink?" he asks as he finishes greeting her and heads back into the kitchen.

"Devon wasn't entirely sure what you liked, so I hope omelettes will be okay," he tells the young woman with a smile. He seems to be doing his level best to simply make Emily feel welcome.

Emily's brow ticks upward at the mention of another person, finding him just a moment after. Her expression is blank — surprise and irritation canceling themselves out at the unexpected other party. She forces a smile of her own as she accepts the handshake, glancing at Devon afterward.

"Coffee, if you have any made. If not, I have some I've brought to use." Her smile is a little less forced as she says as much. She lingers where she is, though, uncertain where to go next. When Jared rounds the corner back to the kitchen, she takes the moment where his back's turned to punch Devon roughly in the forearm, mouthing 'What the hell?' at him with a skeptical expression. A little warning would have been nice.

Breathing out an ‘ow’, Devon rubs his arm and gives Emily an apologetic look. “He’s the best cook in the Safe Zone,” he whispers in explanation. “Besides, there’s plenty of food, and it’s not like the Nite Owl.” Which implies more than just a good meal, complete with real food and not the flour and water pancakes the diner is known to serve. It’s also pretty unlikely that there’d be any surprise meetings.

Stepping away from the door, Dev makes a motion for the table. “Make yourself at home,” he suggests, tone lilting into a question a little at the end. “There’s definitely coffee, and not that watery crap everywhere else serves.” And it’s even made right, since it was Jared who put it together.

Giving them a couple of minutes to have that conversation, Jared pours coffee and takes it to the table in the small dining nook along with sugar and some milk. "Good coffee is how I hold Richard hostage," Jared quips lightly. "Or… it could be the other way around, I suppose." His smile is wide, the laugh lines in his face evident. "It's the price of keeping me on board around here instead of me retiring to spoil the crap out of my grandkids." He gestures for Emily to make herself comfortable around the table, moving one of the chairs out of the way so that she doesn't have awkward moments. It appears as casual as any other movement he makes, a natural atmosphere.

"Tell me what you'd like in an omelette, Emily. Ladies first," the older man offers. "I've got onions, peppers, tomatoes, bacon, cheese, mushrooms, and even some late spinach."

He seems adept at keeping conversation moving as his hands work at their task.

There's a long, uncertain stare out of the corner of her eye before Emily just shakes her head at Devon. Still not knowing why she's here doesn't help, but there's not enough time to twist his arm about it. Jared's being every bit a gracious host, whoever he is to Devon.

"Speaking of grandchildren," she starts, light and conversational as she swivels into position at the table, head tilted slightly as she looks toward the older man. "So I don't make the same mistake I've made previously, are you actually related to Devon or just… close?" Emily doesn't soften the question with a smile, reaching with one hand for the coffee mug.

The sheer amount of options elicits an arched brow, pondered on as she wafts the coffee under her nose. "Pepper, mushroom, cheese… If there's enough bacon to spare for it, I'll gladly have some." She glances down at the mug after, testing the temperature with a sip.

Even Devon angles a look at Jared following the question of relations. It’s never been a secret among their band of former freedom fighters that he views the others all as part of one big family. But then, that’s how they were in the weeks and months leading up to the war, a family living together under the roof of an old brick front house before the war. It was only natural to make Jared part of that circle as the war began. In all the days since, it’s never occurred to him how strange that might be to anyone else.

“None of them are actually blood relation,” Dev explains quietly. His eyes shift away from Jared and Emily both, so he’s looking through the window instead. “We were basically brought together by circumstance. But they’re the closest thing to family I’ve had.”

Jared purses his lips, readying eggs to go in the pan with the chosen additions. "The only reason he's not legally a Mortlock or a Harrison is that he refuses to sign the papers," the older man states calmly. "I'm his grandfather in all the ways that matter. Have been for nearly a decade." He points a finger at Devon. "He's a stubborn little brat. But we love him just the same," he tells Emily with a smile. "Family is what you make it." Those blue eyes are watchful on Devon, and they don't miss much.

"I understand that you were looking out for him when he went radio silent for a couple of days. Thank you for that, Emily. He needs the occasional reminder that people notice whether he's around." The old man is teasing Devon now, apparently the younger male's propensity for not calling his grandfather often enough is being leveraged.

Emily's expression is blank as she listens to both parts of the reply, mostly focused on the dexterity demonstrated by Jared as he works. It's an interesting concept, family who's not blood, and one that she's been exposed to more and more lately. Most caused by the war, too, it seems. Just because it was foreign to her, didn't mean she was incapable of appreciating it. "I'll not ask about it again. Your family is your family." she comments offhandedly.

Her thumb slides along the side of the mug, gaze calmly wandering back to Devon as her bout of worrying is brought up. She clears her throat, perhaps pointedly. Did everyone hear about that now? Emily exhales through her nose as she takes another, longer drink of the coffee while it's black before setting it down to add milk and sugar, since it was there. "I spend more time worrying about him getting shot or stabbed for being too nice than I ought to," she confesses to her coffee cup, almost in an undertone. "But that was an overreaction." Showing up at Raytech, that was. "Don't thank for me for it."

He might have turned a touch indignant when Jared started another explanation — he didn't need a piece of paper to say who was family or not. But Dev actually looks at the older man, mouth hanging slightly open when his disappearance is brought up. “Pops, I call when I can,” is said with flustered sigh. If anyone can bring out the adolescent attitude, it would be his grandfather. The only thing missing is the eye roll.

Glancing at Emily again, he shrugs and mouths sorry. “Anyway… since the diner’s usually a bust, Pops’s a better cook anyway. And last time we hung out was kind've a downer…” Dev grins awkwardly, part apology and part dark humor. “I sort of thought this would be better?”

Jared can't help his smile at Emily's commentary on the shot or stabbed part. His hands remain in motion, scrambling eggs and heating the pan. "I don't find you showing up to ask his family if they'd heard from him when you hadn't and expected to an overreaction at all," he replies. "His job is dangerous. And he can be a little reckless… his adopted father tempered it some, but he leads with his heart. Same as my daughter. Worry comes naturally for the friends and family of those kind of people."

He winks at Emily. "All you can do is hang on tight for the ride." Getting her omelette begun, he sips from his own cup of coffee on the counter and asks, "What in yours, kiddo?"

Emily's already said her piece about her overreaction. She keeps to herself, taking a test sip of the coffee mixture before tapping a touch more sugar into the mug. Might as well take advantage of that opportunity. All the better to avoid passing a comment agreeing about Devon's recklessness, besides. It wasn't like she was guilty of the same with every bit of their friendship.

"Not entirely. We went to the parade." she deflects with a shrug, not looking up from the table just yet. She stirs the spoon absently. "But, so far… this is better than the last brunch attempt." she admits carefully, with a sudden glance toward the door as though she suspects that might change.

"Anyway." Emily looks back to Devon, brow raised. "If you're trying to apologize for that with food, I might be forced to walk out on you." she braces her thumb against the stem of the teaspoon in the mug, pulling the coffee slightly closer. "I just got done telling you that wasn't your fault." She's not stopped staring at him yet, brow ticking slightly higher in suspicion of his motives.

“Tempered nothing. Jaiden gave up trying to get me to to stop and think when he figured out I was thinking while moving. I’ll have everything, please and thank you.” Devon slides into his accustomed place at the table. “Time’s wasted when you stop too often. You get guys coming at you from two sides and a Hunter from a third, you can’t sit and plot out the best way to go. You move, and probably not for that fourth side because that’s where the trap is.”

He looks at Emily, a brow ticking upward. “I’m not apologizing.” They’d covered that before, agreed that neither could beat themselves up over the fiasco at the diner. “But this beats riding the bus from one end of the Safe Zone to the other, it’s less busy than anywhere else, and it’s neutral territory.” Mostly. It’s already been shown his grandfather’s going to tease him at every turn.

Sipping from his coffee while he cooks, Jared moves in the kitchen with ease, his lanky frame showing the slightest of limps today. He just smiles and keeps all further commentary to himself for now. He's harassed Devon enough, he figures.

One eyebrow holds raised as Devon slides into a seat and starts talking shop. It wasn't the first time he'd slipped unexpectedly into talking about work, but the abrupt transition leaves her staring. Hunter? Hunter of what?

When he insists the invitation isn't an apology, she remembers to lift her mug, letting out a neutral "hm" into it as she drinks. "Sure." she concedes, setting the coffee aside afterward, pushing it away with the tips of her fingers before she ends up drinking it and a refill before brunch is even served. Though the brief glance to Jared indicates she's not immediately sold this is entirely neutral ground, she seems satisfied enough with it. "Considerate." she adds, thinking about the trek to the restaurant.

"You know," Emily interjects on herself after a beat, nodding toward the chef even though she's still looking at her company across the table. "It's good." That even though he's alone, he's not alone. Plenty of people to look out for him. It's something that takes a bit of worry off of her.

"You been all right, though?" she asks before she can help herself. The whole point was to not have the brunch be another downer experience, so hopefully he's been all right. Otherwise…

“Yeah.” Devon’s answer is quick and complete with a shrug to make his mood for the other night less of a concern. “Yeah, just this week sometimes gets rough.” Which might be the understatement of the century. For nearly all the world’s population, this week marks major turning points not only in history but also in personal lives. “Wednesday was probably the worst it’ll be for me. Think I’m going back to Rochester in a day or two.” And avoiding the memorials that are sure to come up.

He angles a look at Emily, and though he lifts a shoulder to shrug again, he also follows it with that crooked and sort of awkward grin. “That parade was pretty awesome. Kind’ve wish I’d gotten there at the start though.”

Just about everything to do with the Matsuri came with fond memories, so the grin is earnestly returned. Emily sits up a little straighter. "Yeah! —" she's surprisingly enthusiastic about this. "You missed it, there had been these synchronized dancers with these beautiful fans. I'm glad you at least got to see those guys with the big … totem thing, though." she laughs, both at the memory and at herself for not knowing the proper name for the shoulder-carried mikoshi shrine they'd seen in the parade. "Unless Yamagato throws another festival next year, nobody else is going to have a clue what I'm talking about."

"It was gorgeous." she goes on to explain, looking to Jared for a moment to include him. She's got a witness that this thing existed with her — she'll sound a little less crazy talking about it. "There was all this colored cloth hanging off of it - and it had a fox on it, like the ones they have at the shrine in the Park. In…ari-ji, or whatever it's called."

As Emily speaks, Devon watches her, still grinning though it relaxes, becomes a little less awkward. “It was,” he agrees. “And to see all the fun and excitement everyone was having…” He was paying some attention, even if his mind was wandering that night. “I’m pretty sure it’ll happen again. Maybe they’ll do something for spring. Isn’t there a cherry blossom thing in Japan in… April?” He’s guessing on that, maybe it’s something he’d thought he heard.

“You should’ve seen it, Pops.” Dev flicks a glance in Jared’s direction. “It was like stepping out of the city and straight into Japan.”

"I could see the fireworks, some," Jared says with a smile. The roof of the building is good for catching at least a partial view. He comes around from the kitchen with plates, setting them down in front of the two younger people. Ruffling Dev's hair, the old man heads back into the kitchen. "It sounded like quite the celebration. I think I like that form of remembrance more than some of the others… remind everyone to look forward. To make things better and more beautiful."

Emily's brow ticks into a momentary furrow as Devon gets his hair ruffled, and she shakes her head to herself as she looks down at her plate, trying to keep her grin to herself. She breathes in the scent coming off the omelette, fingers itching for the fork by the plate's side. "The fireworks were something else. I felt like I was dreaming watching those — I'm pretty sure they had someone manipulating them." What had Lance called it? "A photokinetic or something. Either way, they were beautiful." Had Emily gone to Yamagato Park every day of the event? Possibly.

"The whole looking forward thing — Right at the end they flashed the Safe Zone letters and it was something else. Living here isn't always that pretty. It doesn't always feel quite like home." she admits. "But seeing that? I felt some of that New York pride creep back into me." she starts to trail off as she looks at her food again. "I'm really glad I went."

Right. She'd almost forgotten. "Are you eating with us?" she asks, glancing to Jared. It'd be rude to start without everyone, of course.

A longsuffering smirk briefly replaces the grin as Devon feels that hand mussing up his hair. He could hope one day he might outgrow that, but it’s doubtful. He’s doomed to always be the kid, even if he was nearly an adult when he first came into the circle. He drags a hand through his hair like that might put it back to rights, then shrugs at Emily. What can he do.

“Sounds like Yamagato seriously pulled out all the stops to make sure the festival wouldn’t be soon forgotten,” he muses, pulling his own plate closer, but not starting to eat yet.

Jared smiles at Emily. "Go ahead and eat while it's hot," he tells them both. "Mine will come off momentarily and I'll join you. But don't wait on my account." It's always better fresh. The older man winks at Devon — he'll never outgrow the ruffling. It's how Jared keeps him humble and reminds him that it's family. He leans on his counter with a hip while the pan heats back up for the next round.

Emily doesn't need told twice, fishing for the fork next to the plate again. Her brow furrows for a moment as she looks down at her hand, the moment passing quickly before the utensil is held properly, if loosely, while being used to cut a slice of the omelette away. "It was a good time, yeah." she agrees before taking a bite. Letting out a long breath, she reaches across herself with her left arm to pull the mug back closer again.

"How much longer are you planning on being in town?" she asks lightly, settling back down into her seat.

“A few days at least,” Devon answers as he picks up his fork. The omelette on his plate is mashed a little bit, perfectly folded egg broken apart and fillings mixed around. “I don’t need to be at the Bunker unless I’m called back for something.” He pauses for a forkful of deconstructed omelette. “But…” He takes another bite, then mixes his food around a bit more. “Things’ve been pretty quiet since Irwin.”

"Irwin?" Emily asks before she thinks to not follow up on that, regretting it only after she's taken a bite. Her eyes shoot up to look at him after, pausing midchew. Oh. She went there.

“Fort Irwin.” It’s a small elaboration, typical of Devon’s habitual leaving out of fine details. “Institute holdout. Those’re… people who, before the war, were responsible for making it near impossible for anyone who even might’ve been evo could breathe without a permit. Not all of them were bad, but… a lot were.”

"Not exactly what the Institute was up to, Devon," Jared says quietly. "There's quite a bit more to that situation than most people — even us — know." The older man brings his plate around to the table along with his cup of coffee, then goes back to bring the pot over and tops off the cups on the table before sitting down. "But they weren't the ones pushing Registration as an agenda," he points out. "They are, however, quite a significant problem at this point… no one knows what their agenda is now."

Nose wrinkling while she thinks, Emily carefully takes another bite to buy her time to sift through her thoughts. "You mean they're not gone?" She looks between the two for validation. "I thought they were all prosecuted at the Albany Trials, or dead? That the Institute doesn't exist anymore?" It's obvious that's not the case, by the tone of the conversation, but she's compelled to ask regardless.

"Forced registration…" she adds, shaking her head as she takes a sip of her coffee without bothering to add more milk into the top-off, "Sounds like a today problem, if people aren't careful. The midterms are bothering me, honestly." The mug is left against her lips for a moment before she lowers it, eyes on her plate. "People successfully running on a platform of increasing registration requirements … they can pretty up the language how they want, but the only good it'll do is make it easier for the government to jump straight to blaming Expressives because it's convenient and because they have a lovely little list to show them right to people's residences." Emily roughly takes another bite, smaller, looking perturbed.

"Explosion happens? Look up anyone who could do or cause that sort of thing. Mysterious building collapse? Better check first to make sure there weren't any people capable of bending metal or reforming concrete nearby. Hell … weird weather patterns? Why not drop in on your local atmokinetic and question them about it just to be sure."

She stabs another forkful of omelette in fuming silence.

“I know there’s a lot more to it than that,” Devon replies easily, giving Jared a slight shrug. He digs through his deconstructed omelette, probably preparing another point to make that really doesn’t hold much information at all — typical — but all that stops when Emily speaks up.

He watches her as she speaks, a grin forming. At one point he even shoots a quick look over to Pops, brows raised and mouth curved into a crooked, almost smile.

“That’s what we fought so hard to stop,” Dev adds, using his fork to punctuate the statement. “That’s why I stayed with Wolfhound. The war was fought and won on the backs of people who were tired of the garbage in the government. Humanis First had a chokehold it, and I wouldn’t be surprised if their grassroots version today didn’t have their fingers in that pie also. But there’s a lot of us from those days in position now, and we’re not ones who’re going to be pushed around.”

"The Institute and Humanis First don't exist as such anymore, but… to be quite frank, racism in all its forms will likely always exist. As long as there are those afraid of the Other, there will be groups. They're not as powerful now… but I have no doubt that they're still around and sowing their seeds wherever they find fertile ground," Jared replies evenly. "The trick, as it always is, is to keep the pendulum from swinging too far in any one direction. Balance in all things should really be the aim. Because there can't be light without darkness. It's a basic truth."

He glances between the two and admits, "the Registry is voluntary now, but… there are likely still those who would misuse it. We tried extremely hard to make that as difficult as possible and to make involuntary registration something that is only forced upon conviction of felonies." Jared considers, his mind running over the arguments that he was part of in those years when the new laws and legal arguments were being made. He was smack in the middle of all of it. "Privacy had to balance with safety. It's not perfect, but we are taking the steps. Or… at least as much as we can," he finishes the thought.

Emily's listened, ate in silence, still with that same air of frustration. She seems ready to fire off a comment after Devon speaks, but holds her opinion until Jared's weighed in… for better or for worse. She sets aside her fork, hand trembling as she draws it back to her lap. Her posture is stiff and tall in an attempt to make up for it.

"It…" She starts, words bit off with a sigh. "It's just aggravating. The U.S. arguably has the best setup for treatment of Expressives, but it all feels tenuous. Winslow-Crawford opened its satellite for kids here in the Safe Zone, but with snide comments about the zero-tolerance stance with regard to being derogatory toward the Evolved. Yet on the other hand, people can go out there and run a whole political campaign around things that are blatantly or close enough to being anti-Evolved, and everyone just nods along."

Her unfocused gaze suddenly centers on Devon, brow furrowed. "There doesn't just need to be fighting when things get worse again, there needs to be people running to help make sure the system isn't torn apart to the extent that that would be necessary."

Hearts and minds were a lot tougher to win, though.

As soon as Emily's point is made, she grows quiet again, retreating to a memory that's probably related to her outbursts. She tries to drag herself out of it by turning toward Jared, voice distracted. "Did… you say you helped draft the Chesterfield legislation?"

“People with money and ambition are going to do whatever they know they can get away with. And as long as they can speak prettily and know how to say what people want to hear, they can sell anything.” Devon’s interjection is quiet, more an observation or opinion and likely drawn from his experiences. The question directed at Jared draws a raised-brow look, and he picks at his breakfast while listening to the answer.

"I did," Jared replies calmly. "Before the war officially started, my daughter was involved pretty deeply in fighting Humanis First and their ilk." There's a sense that he's proud of that, though he doesn't go out of his way to elaborate. "She had a couple of classified missions against the Vanguard, and there were things she did that she ran at cross-purposes to the law at the time… she was pardoned as a result of her fight against the Vanguard, but… it made it pretty apparent to me that there was going to come a time when the laws needed to change. So I started studying and contacting people I knew, working on building background to argue for new laws. Elisabeth was killed in the events of November 2011." Right now, except for a select few, that's the party line on the matter and he holds it. "I wasn't about to let her be remembered as a traitor. So when Richard pointed me at Liberty and Cat Chesterfield, I was glad to put my hands into the mix."

The older man shrugs slightly. "As I said… it's still not perfect. Nothing is. But we did try hard to build laws that made sense and get them passed when everything came to light and we could fight openly."

Emily listens to the explanation, posture straightening as she hears the name 'Elisabeth'. She shoots a look to Devon as much in surprise as for confirmation. It's not a huge stretch of the imagination to figure it's that Elisabeth.

Hm. She scrubs the heel of her hand against her knee while she thinks. Well.

"So in an indirect kind of way, I have you to blame for the SESA letters I get every other month." she says with a small smirk. "Good to know."

She rests her hand over her fork again, fingertips nudging it back and forth. "Sorry, that's all a bit heavy for brunch. We could… talk about something else." she suggests, looking to Devon for direction in that regard.

It is the same Elisabeth that Devon had brought up just a couple evenings ago. The one he’d said was gone but never mentioned her being killed. It’s an important distinction in his mind, and no secret to his family that he’d never really accepted Liz was gone. Pops’ choice to qualify her as dead, while he understands why he chose that angle, is still a thorn. He’s staring at his plate when Emily looks over, further dissecting his omelet.

Something else sounds like a great plan, before he decides to argue. Dev does glance over following that suggestion, first at Emily then Jared and then to his plate. “You… um…” He flicks another glance at Jared, brows knitting. “Do… you want to come over for a movie?” As he makes the invitation, he looks at Emily, his expression part nervous apology and part hopeful.

Jared just chuckles. "You're absolutely right," he tells the young woman kindly. "I'm pretty sure you both have better things to talk about today than this." It's a tough week on him too, which is why Devon's here, after all. He settles in to eat his brunch with the two, making a point of being present in the conversation but kind of quiet — he doesn't want to intrude, but he doesn't want his presence to be a distraction in their conversation either. It's a rather fine line to walk some days.

"Pardon?" escapes Emily before she has the chance to even think on how she'd respond to that. Something else left them with a minefield of other conversational topics, sure, but Devon really was going out swinging at them.

Her look is guardedly cautious, brow arched in skepticism. She's either giving him a chance to make sure that's really what he meant to say, or to backtrack.

“Yeah.” He isn’t surprised by the reaction, and he might have been expecting it. But Devon tries to find some measure of optimism anyway. Which, for whatever reason, starts with a one-shoulder shrug before he fumbles on ahead. “There’s not a theater nearby and… I wouldn’t trust the power to hold in most places.” Which is why he’d suggested here instead of anywhere else. “And… I thought…” He trails off and looks at his plate, his reasons, whatever they might be, drowning.

Emily's head tips forward and she peers at Devon with a little more intensity than before. "And you thought…?" she asks with more caution than before, her hand sliding from the table and into her lap. While she doesn't seem particularly sold on the idea, she's not rejecting it either. Just giving it an arms-length appraisal.

“I thought it’d be fun?” Since putting the idea out there, Devon’s grown a little more nervous about it. He drags his fork through what remains of his breakfast a couple of times, before finally setting it down beside his plate. “And I wanted to ask. I mean… it doesn’t have to be a movie. We could just… hang out.” He raises a hand to rub at the back of his neck.

Fun. She sits back in her chair, watching him go through his nervous ticks without much of a reaction of her own. After he finishes stammering out his intent, her gaze falls to her lap and she suppresses a small smile. What a novel concept. Her eyes close briefly before she looks back up.

"The Safe Zone's doing better than it was. Nothing like how it was this summer." Emily points out quietly, shrugging one shoulder. After a pause, her voice lightens. "We could try to work something out. Sure." Another beat, accompanied by an aversion of her eyes. "We'll have to play it by ear. I've not been feeling well, so…"

Her lips firm into a line almost like a smile. "Just taking it a day at a time lately." For a moment it seems like she'll go on, but she visibly hesitates and then shakes her head. An actual smile forms, one that's apologetic. "I'm about due for another lecture about overexertion as it stands. Julie's been…" she starts, and then the smile fades.

Emily rests her palm of her hand against the edge of the table, hand flat. "But this has been nice."

Jared's eyes sharpen just a hint as Emily mentions not feeling well. He won't lecture, but he does tell her quietly, "You're both more than welcome to use the apartment for a movie night." His smile is genuine. "I can always go downstairs to see Harm and the kids for an afternoon or evening — it's not like two grown people need a chaperone when they'd like to hang out and share popcorn. And it gives me an excuse to let her cook me dinner." He winks at Emily lightly. "Let me know when you're ready to head back — I can have a car around to take you so you don't have to wait around." The gentle tone has no pity, simply a matter-of-fact acceptance that she might have mobility limitations that, if she'll allow, he can ease some.

“Oh.” Devon's voice is quiet, not quite deflated, and his brows knit but he keeps his eyes on his plate. He hadn't noticed any signs of fatigue, hadn't considered how taxing the trip would be. “Sorry. I… some other time then. Maybe, I mean. Or…” that line of thought is finished with one of his shrugs.

He angles a look of thanks to Jared following the offer. A car would definitely be a better option than the bus.

“The drivers are great. And the cars are more comfortable than the busses.” As he speaks, Dev eases back from the table and gathers his plate and fork to take to the counter. “It'd be a more direct route too. Less time getting jostled or having someone fall on you.” His arms fold against his chest after he's taken care of his dishes, and he glances briefly at Emily. There's a second where he might say more, but he decides against it.

The curl of her brow as the both of them change the way they address her — that extra attempt of going out of their way for her comfort — is a visible indicator for why she hadn't mentioned it before. She hated it when people did that.

She's been trying hard to keep any signs of symptoms to herself. It's a lot harder to mask she does look tired, now that they've settled in. Her plate remains only half-touched, her hands still in her lap at every opportunity, most movements slight.

"Please," Emily insists, instead of asks. "That's very kind of you." 'But,' goes all but spoken there. Her tone indicates clearly the polite words are not an acceptance of the offer.

"It'll be fine, Dev." She advises him with an uptick of her brow, almost sounding chastising. "We'll work something out."

"Of course. The offer is open," Jared says easily. "I like the buses myself, but sometimes when I'm having to use the cane more, it's just a bit easier to cheat and take the car." He winks at her. "Getting old is hell, young lady." He leaves the two of them to hash out the movie thing, though, and sips his coffee. "Have you been in the city all along, Emily, or are you a recent returnee or a transplant?" Young people make all kinds of things awkward when they pussyfoot around, so he just changes the subject entirely.

And Emily's more than eager to jump to a less uncomfortable topic. "Yes, I grew up here, for the most part." she provides easily. "I used to live near Central Park, off the east side." Her hand lifts to gesture off in that general direction. "After the second bomb and the unrest, we got out before the war really picked up. Moved back to Rhode Island, where my mother's from."

"After the dust settled, I wanted to come home. She didn't. She knew it'd be…" Well, still little more than ruins in some places. But she doesn't say that. "—different, than the New York City she remembered. It was easier for her to find somewhere new."

“Sure.” The word was a whisper, little more than a breath, and vaguely despondent response. Something will work out, it always does. Devon keeps quiet otherwise, following the conversation but erring on the side of caution and not adding his own questions or comments. It’s been his experience that him speaking tends to go wrong a bit more often than it goes right. And this brunch has been uncomfortably awkward enough.

"Nothing to be ashamed of in that," Jared observes. "Coming back here and seeing what it's become has been difficult, I think, for many of us. But the more people who return, who can see what the city was and can become again, the more likely we'll get there." He smiles slightly. "I'm going to leave you two to finish your breakfast, if you'll forgive the departure. I did promise the twins that I'd come and help them make cookies this afternoon." He moves to stand, and says genuinely, "If you guys need anything, please do feel free to help yourselves — make yourselves at home."

Well, shit.

"Sure." Emily forces a smile. "Thank you again, breakfast was delicious."

It's fine. It'll be fine. She looks back to Devon, judging his mood. Maybe not immediately fine, though. Her shoulders slump slightly at seeing him withdrawn. Okay, time to think of something to say to snap him out of it.

The door clicks shut behind Jared, and she's still thinking.

Who knows how many moments pass in silence, and she's still thinking.

Shifting a glance to look around the rest of the apartment, the sigh she lets out is almost explosive, compared to the silence she's been keeping. "Sorry." Her head cants to the side as she says it, frustrated with herself more than anything. Emily pushes herself back from the table, grabbing onto a wheel so she spins. Instead of heading for the door, she rolls to the couch, leaving her chair behind and curling up with a throw pillow. Make herself at home? Sure.

A cough cuts her off before she speaks, her frustration with herself only growing. She shakes her head, speaking into the back of her hand as she keeps it covering her mouth. "I overdid it, I caught a fucking cold, and I didn't say 'no' like I probably should have when you invited me over. It is what it fucking is, but I'm sorry nonetheless."

Emily glances at him out of the corner of her eye, hand falling back to her lap after she's convinced there's no other coughs on the way. "It just seemed important." she explains pointedly, like there's an actual need to defend why she made the effort. After a pause, she asks with just the same intensity, "So are you okay? Or what's going on?"

Reasons. There had to be reasons. That's what she tells herself, anyway. 'Just because it seemed like it'd be nice' is a hard concept to wrap her mind around, apparently.

As Jared leaves and Emily continues to sit at the table in silence, Devon moves to gather the dishes from brunch. They’re collected, food scraped together onto a single dish and left stacked to be cleaned later. He’ll likely have the kitchen cleaned up and put away before Jared gets back, but for now he leaves things to sit. He looks at Emily when she moves away, eyes following to the couch, but he stays at the task until the table is cleared and leftovers are put into the fridge.

“I’m fine,” he answers while wiping his hands off with a towel. “Everything’s fine. I just… wanted to invite you over.” Which is true. He’d also been planning to tell her about Elisabeth, however Pops had been right. Until it’s more certain that knowledge would stay need-to-know.

He drags his hands through his hair and lets out a breath. “You can say no. Being healthy’s more important than brunch.” As Dev talks, calm but concerned, he crosses around the couch to sit. “I’m sure you don’t want to hear it, but strength doesn’t come from pushing yourself past exhaustion or when you’re sick. Say no when you have to.”

She was sick of hearing it. Maybe not the same exact words, but the sentiment. "I'm tired of being tired, Dev." At least, that's how she chooses to phrase it. "But I'm more tired of letting it control what I do and when." Even if this was just a cold and didn't turn into anything else.

Emily brushes her thumb over the throw pillow she's clutching, a guarded look shared with Devon as he sits down. As impatient as she sounds with herself and the situation, it's not funneled itself into anger at him just for trying to offer advice.

That was progress… right?

"I just…" she starts, then leans her head back against the back of the couch. Staring at the ceiling, she confesses, "I don't know." Sitting upright, she looks off across the apartment. "Maybe I just thought it'd be nice to have brunch."

Emily's gaze settles on the TV as the object of reception for her distant stare, at least until she realizes what she's glowering at. She turns slightly as she looks back to Devon, an idea working. "And maybe a movie?" she suggests abruptly.

Devon nods his understanding, and offers a quietly spoken, “I know.” And on some levels he does understand the need to push and give limitations the middle finger, even if reasons and limitations are substantially different. But he also understands the fallout that comes with pushing to breaking point.

“I know.”

He seems fine to simply sit and let her speak, and the silence doesn’t bother him either. A small, crooked smile twitches his lips at the mention of brunch, but he offers no other response. His eyes slant toward her when she sits up, but he doesn’t actually look at her until she suggests a movie. He can’t quite mask his surprise, but he nods again.

“Sure.” Dev stands and disappears down the hall to the spare room he’s taken over during his stay. It’s a rough minute before he returns with a soft case, one of those that was part of every road trip ever in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. “Take your pick,” he says as he hands the case off to Emily. He’s going to go to the kitchen for drinks.

Emily blanches momentarily as she sees the case, flipping through it idly. Today was just a day of options, apparently. Some of the titles receive a note of acknowledgement, having forgotten different choice movies were out there, but she holds off until she's scanned the entire book at least once.

Even then, the selection is considered shrewdly. "Pirates?" she asks, holding up a disk in the air as she looks over her shoulder toward the kitchen.

The sounds of mugs being set on the counter and a kettle being put to boil fill the silence while the movies are explored. “Sure,” Dev calls over his shoulder. “Been a while since I've seen that one.” It's probably been a while since he's seen any of the movies in that book.

Once the kettle begins to whistle, it's taken from the stove and the mugs are filled. Packets of cocoa mix are added and stirred carefully, and then both are brought to the couch. One of the mugs is given to Emily in exchange for the movie, which he then puts into the player.

After the movie has been set to play, Devon returns to his seat on the couch. He looks at Emily, to make sure she's comfortable before he relaxes himself.

Seeing as it's taking him a while to come back yet, Emily takes more time trying to peer at what he's doing than before. He's making…? When he comes back with mugs, she peers at him while they exchange items, looking down at it and then back up to him while he fixes up the player and the television. Cocoa. A smile is stubbornly shoved back down before he's able to turn back, quenched by a sip of the drink.

The mug is cupped carefully between her hands, letting its warmth soak through to her while they watch the opening scene, solemn as it is. They all start that way, don't they?

"I think… the first of these is probably the best watch." she remarks quietly as the scene transitions. "The swordplay is timed to the music a lot better. Like it's a part of the score." The longer she's sat there, the more visibly at ease she's become. Still sitting with as perfect posture as she can manage, but more at home, with less ice — unintentional or otherwise — in her expression. "… if that's the sort of thing you notice." Emily mumbles as an afterthought.

“The acting definitely seemed the most authentic,” Devon answers quietly as he settles into his seat, a typical half slouch with his mug held on his knee with one hand. “The second felt like they were trying too hard to capture the magic of this film. The last one had some of what this one brought to the table, it was good, but… maybe too drawn out.” He pushes a shoulder up a little. None of them are bad films, or he wouldn’t have copies to watch.

"Like three movies in one, for sure, but it was nice to have a big overarching story to watch that played so well with each other … with almost all the loose ends tied up." She lifts the mug up from its perch on the pillow to sip from it again, a tiny marshmallow slipping through. "Left just enough of a hook for that unexpected next volume to make sense, while giving plenty of closure to what everybody thought was the end."

When it proceeds to the scene where the blacksmith re-enters the forge to find tools out of place due to the escaped pirate, Emily's lips start to curl into a grin. She loves this part. She's already mentioned why. She hums along when the fight sequence begins, feeling daring enough by the end of it to lift one arm to mock-swing along with the last melodic clashing of the blades. A soft chuckle bubbles up from her as it all ends, her eyes closing and her head shaking to herself.

Emily looks back toward Devon with that same smile, even if it's a little sheepish from her guard being down. This was nice, she had to admit, and they'd only just started.

Arms-length apart, but together.


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