An Older Game


avi_icon.gif farah_icon.gif

Scene Title An Older Game
Synopsis Avi Epstein considers the past.
Date July 15, 2019

"So we're sitting there on the roof, completely isolated…"

The background noise of classic rock fills in the gaps between words while the white noise of barroom conversation apart from their table makes it so they have to lean in to hear one-another. "When Lieutenant Carroll comes running up the stairs, and we think he's here to tell us the ground entrance is clear. But no…" At a round table pushed into the brick-walled corner of a dark bar, two old soldiers share stories from vastly differing perspectives of a conflict a decade old. "He comes and tells us we're on the wrong rooftop, and that we're in the air strike zone." Farah Nazan-Gutierrez has told this story more times than she cares to count but it always brings a smile to her face, in spite of the circumstances of when and where it happened.

"Jesus Christ," is the barked response from the older man she's having late drinks with, hunched over the table and making it look particularly small for his broad frame. "I remember when those jets came in, they laid out the red carpet like it was their fucking job." Avi Epstein hasn't ever heard Farah's story, and she hasn't ever heard any of his. Avi's hands are clasped around the sweating sides of his Whiskey on the rocks and even at a late hour of night this bar is hot enough inside to make it uncomfortable. It's been one of those summers.

Laughing along with Avi, Farah threads a lock of hair behind one ear and takes a sip from her beer, then sets it down on the condensation-stained coaster. "So I know you were the spear-tip in all of that, weren't you? I've read the reports from Apollo a half dozen times while we were trying to figure out the situation with Lowell." Mention of Lowell's name has Avi averting his gaze down into his cup, an awkward shift of his brows and shoulders accompanies his turn at redirecting the conversation.

"It was a good time. Fun was had by everybody." Avi says as he tips back his drink and drains the last of it, setting it down noisily on the table.

"Epstein," Farah asks with one brow raised.

"Why'd you come to Kansas City?"

The Brooksider Sports Bar & Grill

Kansas City


July 15th

11:47 pm

"Business." Avi lies, pushing his empty glass to the middle of the table with a brush of his fingers.

"Bullshit," Farah says with a squint and a shake of her head. "You think I don't keep an eye out when a retired CIA agent come paramilitary fighter books a flight to the nation's capital? Your itinerary for the last few days has been bars and your hotel room. I know you didn't come all the way out here just to shoot the shit with me, either."

Avi makes a grumbling noise in the back of his throat, then exhales a deep sigh and slowly rises to stand, pushing his chair out with his legs. "I'm gonna go get another something at the bar, you want another beer?" He motions with his chin down to the drink she's been nursing the last few sips of. Farah keeps a silent stare up on Avi for a moment, then blinks a look down to her beer bottle and sighs.

"Sure," she says. She knows this is going to be a longer conversation than either of them want. Avi nods and steps away, moving from their table and pushing his way through a crowd of twenty-somethings toward the bar. At the same time he fishes his phone out of his pocket to check the time, only to realize there's a notification on the lock screen:

1 Missed Call: Emily

And another.

1 New Voicemail

"Fuck," Avi mutters, tucking the phone back inside his suit jacket pocket. When he gets to the bar he just puts his glass down with a solid clunk. The nearest of the overworked bartender is handling six other people and the weight of his phone in Avi's pocket feels heavier and heavier the longer he waits. When he looks back to Farah, he can see she's on her phone, one ear plugged and hunched over. Her body language implies some tension, but also familiarity. Probably her husband.

When Farah looks back up to the bar in the middle of her call, Avi isn't there.

Outside the back door of the Brooksider, a half dozen people stand in the solemn and silent pact of cigarette smokers. The air is less humid outside than in the bar and Avi can feel the prickling cool air on the sweat at the back of his neck. Retrieving his phone he steps past the half circle of people wordlessly smoking in one-another's presence and walks partway into the parking lot, checking his voicemail.

You have one new message from
"Emily Epstein."
Received on July 16th at 11:04 pm

Avi cradles the phone more tightly to his ear, trying to drown out the noise coming from the bar and the ambient noise of the city at his back.

"Great. You're not fucking there right now. What else is new."


Avi's brows furrow. Emily is drunk. There is a long silence that follows, and he half expects that's where the message will end. Except it doesn't.

"So, I went and saw Mom."
"It was a stupid idea and I shouldn't have done it, but here I am anyway."

"I don't have anyone else to call about it, because I don't talk about you with my friends. Either of you. And maybe you're the one person who'd get how she can get under my skin. And … I'm mad at her, okay? I'm still mad at her. She lied to me about shit. Well, she wasn't lying about you cheating on her, but she said shit and I believed it for a long time about where you were during the war. It all had to come out later, way after the fact. After the Trials. You know, I still don't know what to do with all of that? This wasn't supposed to be about you, but … I mean, I'm glad you — I mean, you did so much, but fuck if I didn't miss you growing up, Dad."

Avi makes a noise in the back of his throat, running a hand through his hair as he starts pacing the lot.

"I wish you'd been there. I wish we'd had more. I wish I knew what I should be mad at you over, and what's not worth the effort. I wish … I could have been proud of you in the moment, instead of hearing about it years after the fact. Fuck, I wish I could have decided for myself if you were worth having around in my life. All I want now is the chance to make up for it, the good, the bad, the… the anything and the everything."

Closing his eyes, Avi's hand comes to sweep down his face. He looks back to the bar, back to where the director of HUMINT is waiting for him at his table. She'd called bullshit on him, but Avi wasn't lying. Half of the reason he'd taken a flight out to KC was business. Business with Farah. But the other half… that was on his voicemail right now.

"I'm not like you in a lot of ways, and then in others, I stop and I just — and I don't know if they're good things or bad things, because I just don't know you. I don't know if it's a part of me I'm supposed to embrace or try to get rid of because it's not worth having."
"You might be a fucking mess, but you're not the only one who gets to decide that. You… you don't just get to decide on your own you're not worth being around, okay?"
"I don't think I'm asking for much. I'm not asking for the baggage. I'm not asking to know your every deep, dark secret. I'm just asking for you to show up and pretend to be my dad for a while, even when I'm a complete fucking asshole, even when the both of us want to run away."

Avi eyes the bar again, then turns away and shakes his head.

"You said my whole life's been a fucking battle. I don't fucking disagree."
"So don't — Don't make me fight for this, too."
"…shit, wait, no, how do I delete this—"
End of messages.

The ragged, strangled sigh that escapes Avi elicits a look from the few folks having a cigarette. It's brief, admittedly. Avi starts to walk back to the bar but stops short, feeling the weight of the phone in his hand. He looks up at the night sky, and the way light pollution turns the clouds above a weird shade of brown. "Fucking… fuck." Avi hisses, then swipes open his phone and pulls up Farah's contact info.

You: Hey. I've gotta run. Something came up with my kid.

He hits send and is already walking back in the direction of his rental car when Farah's response comes buzzing back. He checks it, pulling open the car door.

Nazan: Rain check?

Avi closes his eyes and shakes his head, settling into the car and pulling the door shut while he composes a reply with his free hand.

You: Can't. Flight leaves at 5:30 in the morning.

Emily is already back in the Safe Zone, this was his last piece of business before going home. As he turns the engine over, Avi waits for a reply from Farah. None comes.

Maybe it was for the best.

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