A Miserable Pile Of Secrets


avi_icon.gif huruma_icon.gif

Scene Title A Miserable Pile Of Secrets
Synopsis As the Bastion's remodeling nears completion, Avi and Huruma have as much of a heart-to-heart as he'll allow.
Date May 18, 2020

The Bastion
Phoenix Heights

May 18th
6:29 pm

The renovations in and around the Bastion have been a steady hum during the day, and mostly quiet as it gets towards dusk. A few new spaces have been finished construction-side. To save a bit of change, the menial stuff is being tasked on the tenants. Laying flooring, painting, et cetera. This and the changes, the administrating, all of it- - it gets just a twee bit tiring.

The common area isn't fully furnished yet, but there is a couch. Huruma is definitely dozed off on it.

She'd finished what work she had, sent it off to Avi to double check before they sent it up the chain. What he lacks, Huruma tries to make up for; schmoozing in particular. There's a half-eaten orange on the coffee table and her phone is still in her hand- - tiny details of an unintentional nap taken while nobody is 'home' to distract her.

It probably won't last. Especially with the phone on silent and texts going unanswered.

Hey!” Avi barks as he comes into the mostly-finished ground floor lounge, expecting Huruma to be distracted in conversation with another hound, not taking a very large cat nap on the recently-moved sofa. Avi hesitates, grimaces, and brings a hand up to the back of his neck. But by this point, it’s probably too late.

And she looked so peaceful. The arm bent up over her eyes is the first to go when Huruma bolts upright, hackles raising; in half a second she's halfway off of the couch before she actually sees Avi. Looking a little bit like he wants to backpedal.

She wouldn't blame him, either, considering her frame is still tensed up like a springtrap in the moment of realization.

Huruma thumps back onto the cushion, bristling.

Sorry.” Avi says a little too quiet and a little too late. “Sorry, sorry. I thought you were— ” he doesn’t know what he thought. “I was just upstairs and Francis was asking where that weird cat statue goes and I…” Avi shakes his head, offering his palms up in surrender.

“This can wait,” Avi admits, realizing he just started Huruma awake from a nap to aggressively discuss interior decorating. “It’s just a statue.”

The pelting of tiny apologies is touching, really. Huruma scowls faintly past her hand when she runs it down over her face, as if to ward off the tiredness and keep it from floating back.

"You already woke me, so if you aren't going to club me back to sleep- - " She scrubs a hand over her head and takes a deep breath, pushing it out in a sigh. Voice a tad groggy, "It's mine. That's mine." Pale eyes find Avi before she leans back into the seat. "I had it in storage. It goes in my office."

It's still odd to say. Her office. "It's Sekhmet. She's Egyptian." Huruma stops there, because if he really wanted to know he'd ask. She's been reminding herself of where the 'give a shit' begins and ends. "And don't worry- - I got a deal on furnishings. It's not going to be on our books."

“Swapmeet, she’s Egyptian. Gotcha.” Avi says. Huruma is fairly certain he did that on purpose. In spite of Huruma’s assurances on the furniture, Avi still gives some of the lounge a little extra scrutiny.

“So long as you didn’t get this shit from John Fucking Logan it’ll be fine.” Avi comments, nudging the foot of the sofa with the toe of his boot. “Last thing I want is to accidentally find these things are packed full of coke.”

Avi sits down on the arm of the sofa, looking up at the ceiling and then around the space. “Honestly, though, it looks like a different building. Hana would fucking hate it because it doesn’t look like it was decorated by a sentient spreadsheet, but…” he almost sounds wistful. “I like it.”

"If I didn't know better, I'd say that was a compliment." Huruma tilts her head back to rest it on the cushion, watching his features as well as his aura, at least part intently. It's that last feeling which does it. Something more peaceful, even if brief.

"I'm sure if there were drugs in these, someone here would have found them by now." She doesn't clarify any origin. Omissions are fair. They aren't, but she's letting it ride. "She would appreciate the effort, anyway." Huruma's lip curls in a smile and she frees a tiny laugh to match that fleeting feeling.

“Yeah,” Avi mumbles, “maybe.”

Running a hand through his hair, Avi looks over at Huruma and then down to the floor. “Sometimes it feels like putting gold leaf on a fucking turd.” His eloquence continues to be the height of class. “I’m losing sleep over how we’re gonna keep the lights on after this year. Liquidating the Bunker was smart, but we need work. Losing the Katsch set us back a fuckton, too.”

A fuckton being a classical measurement of wealth.

“I don’t know. I’m thinking about seeing if Richard needs a security team, but I don’t want to get elbow deep in his shady bullshit.” Avi doesn’t know what shady bullshit it is, but he presumes Richard must have some. “At least with Asi we can track down some Mazdak folks, try’n play pin the tail on the bounty again, but they’re a lot further away and more savvy.”

"Don't fret yourself out of sleep…" Huruma’s mouth twitches in a small frown, and she leans forward to set her phone down and scoop up some runaway orange peels. "There is plenty time. In the meanwhile, small jobs. Contract Hounds out through the company. Think of us as a service rather than a group. There are no longer strike teams, after all. Private security is lucrative… so is professional training. "


"Don't bother with Richard. His… bullshit causes too much trouble to be… practical." No hard feelings. "And on the international side of things," The dark woman's eyes light with a bubble of amusement. "I have some old PMC contacts who may be up for some… ah, collaboration."

The amusement lingers when she turns her head back to him, "There's nothing wrong with gold leaf… it's still gold."

Avi snorts in an almost-laugh and shakes his head. “Yeah,” is his non-committal answer she’s heard all-too-many times to take seriously at this point.

“Maybe I should have individual hounds out looking for contract work. Plenty of people who’d like a bodyguard in the city.” Avi tilts his head to the side. “We’ll have to vet everything, last thing I want is for a fucking human trafficker to hire us to protect him from some fucking undercover feds or…” he’s getting lost in the weeds again.

“I’m losing sleep over this whole fucking Emily thing.” Avi finally says. Huruma can feel the tightly-wound knot of dread start to unravel as he says what’s been on his mind. “Trying not to think about it. Can’t fucking— do anything.” Horror, rage, guilt, it all bubbles together. “Some fucking— fucking— psychopath just…” he curls his hands into fists, jaw clenched.

Gold is as gold does. Huruma hides a smirk in the wake of his shrugging off. The rest of her fruit is picked at, a section of mandarin popped into her mouth. "Everything above board. Contracts. Vetting. Half up front." The dark woman mutters.

The next is softer, an agreement with his state compared to her own. "I know you are." Avi need not admit it, yet he does. Huruma looks to where he sits on the arm of the couch, her eyes half lidded. She could say a lot of things, all of them something that he already knows. Alive. Safe. Not alone. In the end there's nothing she can say. Huruma and words never get along.

Rather than trying, Huruma lifts her hand to the back of his shoulder, a small weight to bring his turmoil back down without intrusion on his emotions.

The slow sigh that passes through Avi is a relaxed one, rather than a stressed one, for the first time in a long time. Sitting forward, Avi scrubs his hands over his face and then rests his head in his hands, elbows propped up on his knees. He doesn’t really say anything, or do anything. Instead, Avi just appreciates the moment of psychic balm provided by Huruma’s proximity.

Though, Avi still feels like there’s a buzzing in the back of his mind. A static hum of anxiety just roiling behind the surface. He swallows dryly, looking across the lounge to the marble statue of a woman leaning forward with searching eyes, then slowly sits back and slouches down against the back of the couch.

“The fuck’m I doing?” Avi asks the ceiling. It isn’t clear about what in particular, or just in general.

"First, you're going to sit down properly and tell me how nice this sofa is." Instead of lounging around on the end of it.

Huruma wasn't hired to hear problems- - but she's rather good at it, even if sometimes reluctant to pry so obviously. She slides a little ways down the couch, one leg hooking over the other. "Second… you're free to talk. I can't promise that it will help, but at least it won't fester…"

"I know there's a thousand things going on in there, Avi… you can always tell me a few."

“I don’t even know where to start,” Avi says with fatigue in his voice. “I just… I still go to Berlin— Nat’s room. Knock on the door, expect her to tell me to fuck off or be happy to see me or… fuck. I don’t know.” Running his hands through his hair, Avi sighs hard through his nose.

“I barely had a chance to be her father.” Avi says with a hand at his forehead, shadowing his eyes. “Barely. Fuck. I never did. She died and I told Emily and… I’m fucking horrible at this. Parenting. Family. Life.” It’s been a slow process, but Huruma’s gradually watched Avi try to climb up the greased walls of a well of depression. Her mitigation has helped, but there’s only so much supernatural dopamine can do for the underlying problems.

“I hate sitting around like this,” Avi says with emphatic frustration. “I hate not knowing. I hate not doing. I don’t want to fucking sit here and think but I don’t have the— fucking— energy to do anything.”

"She knows you were trying. In your own way." Avi may not think so, and yet there it is. Huruma believes it. A rope by any other name is just as taut. But the well is always just deep enough to slip. "Even if you're horrible at it, at least you've done enough to know it. More than can be said for many 'parents'."

"As cliche as it is, The train only moves one way." Can't go back. Not really. Huruma's turn to sigh, a deep breath. "I haven't been so great either. They didn't have to give me a chance. They did. I suppose there's room to grow even at our age." This is what makes her laugh, a self-depreciating noise. He isn't alone in his Sisyphus-esque climbing, just that her own is far more- - compartmentalized. Sneaking out now and again.

"I can't do anything permanent about malaise, though." The sober way she says it means she gets it. It's not a jab. She knows it, the heart's fatigue. "You know that I'm not one to sit still either." Pacing the cage. Perhaps a catnap, if she feels safe enough. "We all have that itch, in different ways. I have to see it all of the time. In everyone."

"If you can't find the drive, find someone to take the wheel, ride shotgun for once."

Avi makes one single, small noise with an incline of his head into the most subtle of nods. Rather than properly sit on the sofa like Huruma asked, he stands. Embodying the restlessness of heart’s fatigue.

“I guess I already have.” Avi admits, though he doesn’t mean it in the way Huruma does. “Wolfhound’s taken the wheel from me for a long time, otherwise I would’ve wound up dead in a ditch somewhere for any number of fucking reasons.” He upturns a look to Huruma, then paces away from the sofa and scrubs his hands over the back of his neck, then laces his fingers there.

“I guess that’s why I’m so afraid of losing this.” Avi says. It’s the most candid he’s been about their struggles yet. “Without the Hounds, without this? I don’t trust myself to take the wheel again.” His brows knit together, eyes distant and unfocused as they wander the room. “There’s a lot of tempting cliffs.”

Rather than follow him with her eyes, Huruma puts her considering towards the windows and listens, inside and out. She's not a doctor, but sometimes she feels she could have been. In another, better life.

There is no more remarking on taking wheels or backseats. Eventually sliding up to her feet, Huruma has a cautious, hands-in-pockets approach.

"I know I've suggested new outlets, and I am fairly sure you blew it off. But… I'm quite serious." As much as it is a bit of admonishing, she wields it with an unburdened tone. She'd rather he listen, but she can't make him. "I want you to come with me next time I go to the Benchmark. You don't have to do anything else. Just." Huruma's mouth firms into a line and she huffs faintly from her nose.

"And there's something else I think you might benefit from…so I'd like for you to come with me to Red Hook this evening."

Benchmark?” Avi practically sputters the name. “Rowan’s place? No.” He shakes his head in these tiny, rapid denials. “Nuh-uh, no way. I saw her once this year and that was enough. She’d probably catch fucking fire if I walked into her place and got within proximity more than twice a decade.”

Avi’s joking, but Huruma senses the more earnest emotional response of fear undercutting that. “I don’t do good with shrinks anyway. I have to want to let them help me get better, and you might be the only fucking person I’d let even try to tell me what to do. I don’t— do well with people trying to manage my fucking feelings.”

He’s like a housecat trying to be moved into a cat carrier, paws akimbo against the door.

"Did I say anything about 'shrinks'?" No? Didn't think so. Huruma stifles a smugness that comes with his admissions of her influence; instead, there's a flattening of her mouth, a hooded look in her eyes that seems to be trying to ease his apprehensions without her ability behind it. It's perfectly normal that he's scared of the prospect. She'd know.

"You wouldn't have to see her, and no-one is going to manage your feelings besides me." Snrk.

"Do you think it was easy for me? It wasn't. It still isn't and will never be. But I'm doing it…." People like them with decades of problems won't be fixed, only smoothed out and balmed.

Huruma lifts a hand to wave the rest of her thoughts away, expression mildly dismayed. "I still want you to come with me tonight. It is nothing untoward." Like a shrink ambush, she means.

Like the moon and the tides, Avi ebbs while Huruma flows. He rises up off the couch and she can feel the metaphorical walls going up. “I’ve gotta go up to Francois’ place,” he says quietly, “get him to sign some stuff for me. Check in and see how he’s doing. Give him shit for being French and lazy.” He doesn’t mean the latter part, he’s glad Francois is getting some time off.

“Maybe some other time,” is Epstein code for no. “But I appreciate you lookin’ out for me. And…” he shrugs, hands coming up in a helpless gesture. “I guess there’s no and. It just is.”

"If there is anything that needs his hand, it is news to me." is Huruma code for you've got to be kidding me. Even if she can see the honesty in his appreciation, the reticence towards something small snags at her mood. Less for the declining and more for the mulishness.

"It is something I help with in Red Hook, now and again. I think you could use the distraction… One which is not work related whatsoever." One brow lifts in what she decides is a last-ditch attempt at a coaxing.

“Yeah.” Avi says like a period on the end of an unwanted sentence as turns and walks from the couch to the lobby with the purposeful strides of a man running from something. Huruma catches a whiff of secrecy in him as he departs, not so much guilt and frustration as there is a sense that Avi was keeping something from her.

Perhaps, in that, there is even less comfort. But what is Avi, if not a miserable pile of secrets?

Some Time Later

“So Huruma doesn’t know?”

The bearded man sitting in a high-backed armchair rests on his elbow, a pen casually held between two fingers. The glow of street lights outside reflect off his glasses. Standing in the dimly lit room, Avi Epstein faces the windows to the outside, watching traffic go by.

“No.” Avi says quietly, conspiratorially.

“Do you think she suspects anything?” The bearded man asks, glancing down to something in his lap before looking back up to Avi, who leans one arm against the frame of the window.

“Fuck if I know,” is Avi’s dismissive retort. “Maybe. Probably.”

“I think you should tell her,” the bearded man says, which elicits a look from Avi as he turns around in a snap. A look that is bordering on baleful.

“I think you should shut the fuck— ” Avi catches himself, sucking in a sharp breath through his nose and then turning back to the window, resting his head against the glass with a soft thunk. “Sorry.”

Avi opens his eyes, looking out the window to the large white sign on the grassy hill overlooking the brick building he’s in. The man he’s speaking to is remarkably patient. “I can’t have a subordinate think their CO is out of his fucking mind.”

Avi,” Doctor Teasdale says, scratching his beard with the capped end of his pen. “With everything you’ve already told me over the last two months, let’s be honest, what do you think their opinion of you is?”

Avi can’t tear his eyes away from the sign as he snorts out a laugh and bitterly says, “Yeah.

A sign that reads: Benchmark Recovery and Counseling Center.

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