An Unexpected Party


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Scene Title An Unexpected Party
Synopsis Emily decides to not celebrate her birthday alone. She didn't realize how NOT alone that would end up being.
Date September 11, 2018


12:13 pm
It's last minute, but I'm going to have a get-together tonight at Add-a-Ball in Elmhurst. Would you want to come? It's my birthday.

The blackout schedule being back to normal makes this possible in the first place, Emily thinks to herself with some relief. A few weeks ago, and everything would still be dark right about now. As it stands, there's the pleasant technological twittering of old arcade games coupled with some unmemorable rock music pulsing over the speakers, and dim but bright colors reigning over the bar area. Emily is sat at one of the barstools, absently munching away at some fries she ordered while she waits for the appointed time she'd sent out earlier. She'd shown up a bit early, after all.

At the end of the bar are a cluster of tables and chairs, for once (mostly) cleaned off, and a karaoke machine set up by the wall, a pair of microphones waiting patiently to be used.

Emily wasn't much for parties, but something had struck a nerve in her earlier. She wasn't just going to let this year come and go without giving it some amount of acknowledgement. No — she was going to claim this one and make it her own. 19 was going to be her year! She pulls her phone closer to her on the bar, compulsively checking the time on the lock screen.

The beer beside the fries she'd ordered helps to curb the nerves she has while waiting. She still had no idea what would actually happen tonight, but one way or another, she intended to do her best to have some fun with it.

Joe arrives! With people in tow. How many? Nobody knows! He arrives with at least an Owain and a Lance though! Maybe more! Joe was surprised to get the message from Emily considering last time he saw her she certainly seemed like she wanted nothing to do with him. But Joe is never one to let that push him away from a potential friend. So he shows up for the party. He walks into Add a Ball, a place he's fairly familiar with and waves at Emily, even shouting across the establishment. "Hi Emily! I brought friends!" Cuz he did. He walks in her direction at a quick pace.

"Uhh that's Lance. He's Hailey's brother. Like actual brother. By blood. Don't worry he's WAY less rude than Hailey is. And that's Owain. He's one of us too. Us being the Lighthouse Kids. He was only with us for a little while, but once an LHK always an LHK." He walks over and drops down into a seat across the table from her. "Happy Birthday." He grins at her from across the table. "I didn't really know what to get you for your birthday, since well…" Since he doesn't know her that well. "So! I brought people our age for you to meet and maybe make friends with. Cuz everyone needs more friends."

It was with some reluctance that Owain was roped in to join this soiree, in part due to his studies, but mostly because he still wants to punch Lance in the jaw for shooting him in the chest with a red paintball in the middle of his (admittedly failing) date with Brynn. It was eventually managed, probably mostly to get Joe to shut up — nobody can talk quite as much as he can.

Once within, Owain makes it a point to put as much distance between himself and Lance as possible without being a rude jerk about the party. Thankfully, Owain isn’t a rude jerk. When Joe makes his introduction, Owain offers a polite handshake. “Happy birthday, Emily, and a pleasure to meet you,” he murmurs, before dropping into a seat.

He’s also giving Brynn her space — that’s a whole other awkward situation there.

Brynn accompanied the boys, not exactly reluctantly. She's totally interested in meeting Joe's friend, after all. But she's also the quiet one of the bunch, and as they all shuffle in, she waves toward the birthday girl with a small, shy smile. She also signs, Happy Birthday. At that point, she tilts her head and realizes she's seen Emily! But … she's not exactly sure that was a good situation. So she basically ignores that and she's doing her level best to ignore the awkwardness with Owain, because well… that is not something she even wants to talk about right now! Keeping a low profile.

Lance is absolutely cheerful about the whole thing, and ignoring the distance between himself and Owain that the other teenager’s keeping sullenly. He may get punched by the end of the party, who knows?

“Oh, you met— yeah, uh,” he rakes a hand back through his hair, offering a rueful smile to Emily, “She’s, uh, well she’s Hailey. If we let her she’d still be living off in the ruins in an abandoned zoo somewhere. So I hope you don’t paint me with the same brush there. Good to meet you, and happy birthday!”

“Oh, right, presents— “ He shifts to get at the messenger bag under his arm, reaches into it and produces a jar of peanut butter. It’s set on the bar proudly as he notes, “I hope you’re not allergic.” Given the food shortages, it’s a little bit of a luxury.

He is not looking at Joe.

Elbow still on the table as Joe shouts across the bar, Emily pauses with fry in hand as he walks in with WAY more people than she'd expected. Him explaining it was his birthday 'present' only makes the sheer number of strangers slightly better. She'd forgotten (somehow) how quickly and how much Joe talked, so the blast of introductions is barely held onto.

Wait, he's not ACTUALLY Hailey's brother? And that's Lance— no, that's Owain, and— LHK? What is this, a gang? Oh god.

… A gang. Joe's in a gang and brought all his gang members with him. It was a good thing the bartender didn't card. She was definitely going to need another beer after all this.

By some grace, though, they were all a polite gang. "Hi," she greets Owain politely, accepting the handshake. She starts to rotate to the girl, then realizes she's talking with her hands, and Emily has no idea what to do with that. She tilts her own hand back to lift it in a wave instead of go for another handshake.

Lance's introduction causes a smirk to curl up, and she's about to respond to the character comment about Hailey when he segues about presents. Before she can argue it's not necessary, out comes the peanut butter.

"Holy shit." escapes her in what's definitely not the whisper level that it was intended to come out at. "You didn't— I don't even know you, that's…" Emily's hand falls to turn the peanut butter toward her, reading the label. She looks confused, but not at all unhappy. A quiet laugh escapes her as she looks down on it. Abnormal greeting gift aside, it's an excellent gesture on his part.

All right. This gang thing going on here suddenly felt way less ominous.

"Thanks— all of you." she says, a little overwhelmed. "I definitely wasn't expecting this many people, but…" she trails off, eyes coming to settle back on Brynn. "You are…?" she starts to ask, then remembers the hand gestures from before. She meant to ask them all if they wanted to order anything, but finishing the introductions came first!

Her brow furrows as she struggles to recall something, then she lifts her right hand. "Um…" she starts, feeling a little silly, then makes one of the few signs she's ever seen — a simple swipe from her ear to her mouth. "Are you… Deaf?"

Gray eyes take in the other girl's reaction to Lance's offering and Brynn can't help the grin. Even if a person doesn't like peanut butter, it's a definite treasure. And Lance seems to always find the unending supply of peanut butter — which is a darn good thing cuz Joe always eats it all! Without bread! Double-dipping the spoon!

Nodding to Emily, she replies in sign, knowing that at least one of her brothers or Owain will jump in with the translation pretty much immediately. Yep! So if you say something, just let me know before you try to say it to me — that way I won't miss it. Big groups are a little tough, but it's okay. The guys are great about translating. All of them, really.

Joe's mouth is typically a never ending font of speech. Here lately, since Squeaks's abduction he's been less chatty. He's been a man on a mission. But there are bouts of normal Joeness where he vomits words endlessly. He isn't entirely aware of what happened between Lance and Owain, so isn't quite sure where the tension is coming from between Owain and the others, though it does get a few odd side eyes. "Brynn says Happy Birthday!" Joe translates for their sister. "Brynn is one of us as well. The lighthouse kids that is. She can't hear you, but she's pretty good at lip reading, and I tend to have a running translation going." And indeed his hands are moving as they talk, looping Brynn into the conversation.

"Oh. I didn't even think about bringing food." The jar of peanut butter that Lance has brought most definitely has Joe's name written on it. Cuz they all do. "Well now I feel slightly stupid. But I brought people! Does that count?" He asks, turning his head to regard Emily. He sees the look. The look of being overwhelmed. It's a look he sees on a lot of people. "So Lance and Hailey are blood siblings. But the two of them, myself and Brynn all grew up in the care of the Ferrymen. We call ourselves the Lighthouse Kids because that's where it all started. The lighthouse out on Staten. Owain joined us there briefly, but briefly is enough to make him a Lighthouse Kid.”

“But Lance, Hailey, myself Brynn and others we grew up together. Hence the siblings bit. Hailey is my sister, even if it's not by blood, and I call her that despite what a giant pain in the butt she is." A wide grin is flashes at Emily. "We're a family." He leans back in his seat a little bit. "So yes. I brought potential friends." Why? Cuz Emily was walking around the safe zone alone. And that tells Joe she needs friends. "But seriously. I know I apologized pretty much the whole way back from the fence but I really am sorry for Hailey. She was raised better than that but she chooses to be a barbarian."

“Hey, nobody should be alone on their birthday,” Lance declares, turning one of the chairs backwards before dropping into it, arms draped over the back, “And any friend of Joe’s, yadda-yadda— “ He flashes Emily a grin, “An offering of food. It’s traditional. Well, it’s traditional to someone, somewhere so that counts.”

That said, he slants a look over to Joe, “Do we need to keep calling ourselves kids? Brian and Samara have fucked off into the wasteland somewhere, Gillian’s all settled down. We’re the Lighthouse now. Nobody else to keep that light lit if we don’t.”

Owain watches quietly; not to be outdone by Lance, Owain reaches into his ever-present bag with its copper zipper pulls, and produces…a small bag of coffee. “This is the stuff I give the big boss over at Raytech.” He presents it to Emily with a sheepish grin.

He casts a look over to Lance, then lets a shrug roll over his shoulders. “Adults still call us kids even if we’re old enough to vote or join the military or go to jail.” Not old enough to drink the beer that Emily has so graciously provided for the party, of which he is pouring himself a cup, but you know.

A gang with a history, huh? Emily shakes her head to herself slightly as she pulls her phone toward herself, keying it open and then offering out out toward Brynn with a quirk of her brow that says 'here'. It's opened on a new contact named 'Brinn', hovered over a spot to enter a phone number. Hey, these guys could translate for her all they wanted, but it felt better to give Brynn her own way to get Emily's attention if she wanted.

The mention of the Ferry goes without much of a reaction since she's offering out the phone at the moment, though it does cause her to look between all of them again. "Hailey's doing all right, then?" is all she can think to ask at the moment.

Lance's assertion that nobody should be alone on their birthday leaves an emotional wake behind it as it sails past her. This family-gang of teenagers were infectiously heartwarming, but birthdays were never really her thing, for more than one reason. She lets out a snort, eyebrow raised at him. "I know it's almost a whole new age these days, but being a New York kid with a 9/11 birthday…" she shrugs, taking a sip from her glass.

The coffee causes her to pause mid-sip, a flash in her eyes as she drinks in the sight of it. "What the fuck, guys." she murmurs into the glass, darting a look to Owain. 'Thank you' seems like the appropriate response here, but the coffee is the breaking point in remembering niceties. "Jesus…" is all she says, putting the glass down to lift up the bag. It's not that she's not appreciative, it's just that she's speechless. She's half-tempted to open it to smell it, but she's convinced that'd be weird, so she sets it down in her lap instead.

"Hey, do you guys want to order anything?" she suddenly remembers to inquire, and leans over to pick out the single-page laminated menu from between the napkin holder and condiments on the bartop. She lays it flat between them all. "I was worried about getting too much so I'd held off." Silly her.

Brynn grins slightly and reaches out to take the phone. She has one. It's just never on because there's no cell service. Still, she puts the number to it into Emily's phone. Then she signs, My phone's never on unless I know I'm in a place it can be used — which is almost never. But it's good to have it. Thank you. She's touched that Emily would offer that, because even though she rarely can use her phone, the fact that someone wants the number and might use it… is a nice thought. She pulls a small notebook out of her backpack, and offers it out to Em. Yours here? Because her phone's all the way at the bottom of the bag where her notebook is within easy reach.

Since she has the notebook out, Brynn also writes, It was really nice of you to invite us to your party. I can't remember the last time anyone we know had a birthday party. And she offers an abashed shrug. To the query of whether they'd like something, she hesitates a moment and then points to a basket of fries — they might not be potato fries, but hey… any fries in a storm!

“Hey, a 9/11 birthday could be worse. Could be 11/8,” Lance quips, and then he’s finger-gunning over in Owain’s direction, “And yeah, but that doesn’t mean we have to. Most of us were fighting a war before we learned fucking algebra, we’re not kids.”

“We haven’t been kids for a long time.”

The smile turns a bit bittersweet for a moment, and then he shakes his head to scatter it and points with Brynn, “Yes! Fries. Fries sound fucking delicious. Good thing it’s easy to grow potatoes. We could just live on fries and mashed potatoes forever.”

He shrugs one shoulder to Emily, then, “Yeah, as good as she ever is. She likes animals more than people, really… we miss her but she won’t come home. Just hiding at mo— at Gillian’s place.”

Emily lets out a laugh, even though she's not sure she meant to. She has had a little bit to drink already. "That's right." she lets out a knowing 'ahh' as she says it. "Always some fucker out there who has it worse." Her head turns and she lifts a hand to get the bartender's attention as Lance keeps going, having seen what Brynn gestured at.

She crosses her arms and leans over the bar as the bartender comes near, quirking an eyebrow at her to ask her what's up next. "Sounds like two more baskets of fries," Emily lets him know. The slender twenty-something with a pierced brow leans in to chide "And you were worried," swiping away her almost-empty mug to refill it before the birthday girl's scowl turns into some kind of harsh word about the comment.

Pushing up from the bar, she turns to grab ahold of Brynn's pen that was offered, looking down at the note. The 'get-together' had been upgraded to a full-blown 'birthday party' at some point. Probably due to the number of people Joe had dragged with him. It's been a while since I've had one, too. she hastily writes back, including her phone number below the note. Hopefully it didn't mean the rest of them would end up with her digits, too, but the deed was done.

Joe looks over to Lance with a slight smirk. "You're late to that party. I know we're the Lighthouse now. Brynn and I actually had a conversation about it months ago. But yes, we're still and always will be the Lighthouse Kids. Even when we're old and wrinkled and grey we'll still be the lighthouse kids. But if it offends your sensibilities I can stop calling us that to everyone we meet." Joe makes a face at Lance, though he's grinning wide when he says it, and his hands are moving for Brynn's benefit as he teases their brother. "Hailey's fine. I mean as fine as Hailey gets. Which means she's probably running around grumping at everyone in sight." Joe's shoulders pop upwards in a quick shrug, though there's a ready grin to go with the shrug.

He sobers a bit at the talk between Owain and Lance, a slight frown, but his head tips forwards. "You're not wrong Lance. But you're the one who kept talking about clinging to a normal life. By normal standards we are kids. But I know what you mean." He reaches a hand out to pat him on the shoulder, then looks to the group at the table. "Well, happy birthday Emily. I'm glad you reached out." He agrees with the fries and raises his hand to let the waiter know they need another basket too. Cuz Joe can eat. "Brynn is happy that you want to share your number with her." He remarks to Emily as he looks around for something to drink.

The metallokinetic takes a long drink of his beer, watching the goings-on around them for a moment. He occasionally steals little glances over at Brynn, but mostly avoids talking directly to her — he’s given her space since the incident, and intends to continue to do so, but he does look a little bit like a sad puppy with those brief glances.

Thankfully, he’s at least marginally okay at playing it cool, so he sips his beer and grins over at Emily. “Happy birthday, by the way.” He raises his beer in a makeshift cheers to the girl. “I’m glad to meet you. Always good to have new friends. I’m the resident chemistry geek over at Brooklyn College.”

Free of the beer, Emily comes to her feet to take a proper seat by one of the tables instead of at the bar. Her phone is slid into her back pocket, and she leans forward to grab with one hand both of the crutches leaning against the chipped 'wood' paneling of the bar. There's a momentary pause as she plans out the brief route then executes with several shuffling steps before turning around to collapse comfortably onto the half-booth cushion against the wall opposite the bar. "Normal's just a ponzi scheme anyway." she announces with finality.

Normal… that something that everyone who didn't think they had it chased after, even going as far as doing things very much NOT regular in pursuit of appearing to be that ever-elusive state of being. Emily shakes her head as she lays the crutches down next to her. "Or, if you prefer something slightly more optimistic, everybody's got their own normal."

Emily leans forward, arms crossing on the table much like she'd been sitting on the bar, brushing her hair from her face and snaking it behind her ear. The new wave of 'Happy birthdays' coming her way stir something inside her. Something she needed to find a segue from before she could linger on how nice this was. Her gaze drifts to the karaoke machine. "Don't thank me yet, Joe, it's not like anybody's started singing yet." The beginnings of a grin grow as she turns back to the others. "There's a pretty wide selection on the box, I think, too, so no excuses there."

It was silly, but she'd always wanted to go out somewhere and do karaoke. No time like the present for making these sort of wishes a reality.

“That’s what I said, yes,” Lance rolls his eyes tolerantly at Joe, “Stop calling us kids… and I just want us to live our lives. We shouldn’t have to deal with this bullshit, we should just be living our lives.”

Yeah, that’s gonna happen.

Then there’s a spark in his eyes, and he looks past Emily to look over towards the karaoke machine. “Ooh,” he declares, pushing himself up, “Singing it is. This is your fault, Emily, you did this to yourself.”

The door out to the street opens, held awkwardly by one hand, followed by a hesitant brunette with streaks of burgundy fading in her hair. Jolene Chevalier shoulders the door open using her other hand to navigate her cheap, rattling, metal crutch and wedges the rubber stopper to hold the door open. In that moment, even though she was trying to block it with a sneakered foot, a black cat darts inside and scrambles under some of the pinball machines, and Jolene exhales a curse under her breath.

Rolling her eyes, Jolene steps in and lets the door swing shut loudly with a jingle of the bells above the door. Shoulders hunched forward, she looks at the gathered people then looks back to the door and bites down on her bottom lip, then hesitantly leans away and presses her hand against the latch and looks as though she’s going to just turn around and leave before anyone notices her.

Brynn is so totally not participating in karaoke — after all, she doesn't talk, much less sing. Settling into a seat to watch everyone, though, she shoots a small smile toward Emily and even to Owain. The breeze from the door opening brings her eyes toward that portal and she looks perhaps a little surprised at the person standing there. She flashes a brief Cant 'hello' in welcome to Lene, glad to see the woman but uncertain whether to really draw attention to her — maybe she doesn't want people to look!

Singing? Oh, Owain has got this one — if there’s one thing he doesn’t mind that he inherited from his traitor of a father, it’s his music talent. If only he’d known that Karaoke was going to be a thing — he would’ve brought his guitar, too. Because nothing screams ‘I am cool look at me’ like bringing a guitar to karaoke.

The smile offered by Brynn prompts a flush to settle over Owain’s cheeks, and he quickly looks away from the deaf girl to hide it. Instead, he slips closer to Emily, a warm smile on his face — despite the red cheeks.

“So how old are you turning? Where are you from? I came to this party, but I realize that I know next to nothing about you.” Owain tips his head toward the girl, genuinely interested in this new person he hasn’t met yet.

Owain's reaction to Brynn's smile is one that would cause Emily to casually drink from her mug and look the other way, but it's still not back yet, so she opts for a poker face in the form of returning the polite gesture. She turns away with the intention of watching Lance get himself into lyrical trouble, but Owain's scooted his chair closer to where she's sitting, so she turns back.

"Twenty-one." Emily replies smoothly with a glance and smile toward the bartender who's just come back out from the kitchen. Her head tilts as she points out, "Of course you know nothing about me. Joe knows nothing about me, after all." Though she wonders what kind of character description he gave about her before dragging the gang along with him, she doesn't ask at the moment, having leaned forward at the sound of the bells by the door.

There's a flash of surprise in her eyes for a moment as she sees Lene, and then she's leaving forward even further, her hand lifting up in a wave toward the doorway even though she says nothing yet. Hell, if she were in Lene's shoes she probably would have run, too, what with the size of this crowd. Hopefully she doesn't, though Emily realizes she's once again invited her somewhere she probably can't drink much. At least there's food this time.

Just two steps to the karaoke machine and Lance notices just who’s come in— twisting a bit to look over to the door, a grin curving broad to his lips. Noticing she’s turning to creep out he folds both arms over his chest. “Jolene Chevalier,” he calls over firmly, “You get your sneak-outty butt over here and meet my friends and enjoy the festivities right now.”

Or re-meet them, possibly. He’s really not sure who she might have known. Who don’t know her.

His co-worker is a complicated woman with a complicated life.

“There are french fries.”

“That's… great,” Jolene’s voice creaks with dishonesty as she turns away from the door and to are the sound of Lance’s voice. Grimacing mildly, she makes her way from the door with furtive looks to the others who — aside from Joe — aren't familiar at all. Even Joe was just a little kid the last time she saw him. Suddenly, Jolene feels so very, very old.

“Yeah uh,” Lene mumbles unheard, clearly having some difficulty walking with just one crutch, her pace slower than Lance is accustomed to seeing her move. Over her unburdened shoulder is a courier bag, and though her attention seemed to be directed to Lance, she's actually making her way over to Emily.

Managing a barely better smile, Lene opens her bag and removes a clearly heavy black faux leather case from inside, just a little bit smaller (though thicker) than a briefcase. “I… picked this up at the Vault. I don't know if you already have one but…” It isn't yet clear what the case is, and Lene seems to be looking for a place to put it down.

The world suddenly felt incredibly small, what with Lance calling Jolene out by her first and last name. Emily shoots a glance toward him, and then to the woman on crutche— no, just the one. "Hey. I'm glad you made it — I know it was out of the blue and all…." she says, even as she grows distracted, attention going to the bag on her side.

Her brow starts to furrow as she suspects another gift is incoming, stopping just short of a frown as she's more than surprised at the bulk behind whatever it is. She's pushing aside the condiments and glasses on the table to make room. The Vault? she wonders to herself, head quirking to one side. "No idea…" she intones, fully curious to see what's inside the case now.

Joe's eyes narrow at the figure at the door and he's about to pipe up when others call her over. Joe waves his hand anyway and calls out in a loud voice. "Hi Lene!" His hand waves enthusiastically, and indeed he's up out of his seat to make sure the wave and greeting are seen, but then she's joining the group at the table so he plops back down in his seat. "And no. I don't know anything about you. So we should change that. Hi. I'm Joe Winters. I'm 18 and want to go to college. I got in but I don't want to go without my siblings so I haven't started yet. I grew up in the care of the Ferrymen and lived all of my teenage years in Canada riding out the civil war." He holds his hand out across the table to Emily.

"Though it used to be Joe Fulk. And something else before that. I don't remember my original last name. But it went from Fulk to Winters when my adoptive father became a different person. Sort of. He was a replicator. Brian Fulk and Brian Winters. Hence the last name change. Cuz it was a different replicant. It's complicated. Our entire lives are super complicated." His hand is still held out towards Emily, and Joe is stubborn enough that he will continue to hold it out to her if she doesn't take it. ALL NIGHT IF NEED BE!

"Hi Lene. How have you been? Haven't seen you in ages. Long long time. Lance seems like he's seen you more recently though. Laaaaaaaance?" Joes' head flops to the side and turns so he can look at his adoptive brother, an eyebrow popping up in clear question if the tone of voice wasn't enough. And he signs it all too, drawing Lance's name out and everything. "Also you totally don't want me singing. I mean I'm going to sing. But you totally don't want me singing. I'm a terrible singer. Which will make this great." That last bit to Emily of course.

Sneaky Owain is sneaky. While Lance and company are distracted by Jolene’s arrival, the metallokinetic slips out of his seat, downs his entire cup of beer, and promptly slips past the ninja boy, taking control of the Karaoke machine. He takes a moment to select the song, then he’s standing behind the mic.

The music starts up with the traditionally spoken word chords of ‘Hallelujah’ by Leonard Cohen, and Owain proceeds to start belting out the lyrics — the difference being that he can actually sing pretty well thanks to his classical training under his father.

Well I’ve heard there was a secret chord, that David played and it pleased the Lord, but you don’t really care for music, do ya?

For some reason, Owain feels the need to compete with Lance, and to do so, apparently he has to put on a good performance? Teenagers are weird.

Teenagers are weird, sure… boys are more weird. Brynn watches Joe's hands as they first try to hold out for Emily to grasp one and then finally gives up because he can't stop himself from continuing to talk and sign at high speed. She reaches up to rub her forehead with a thoughtful expression as the crowd gets bigger. She jots down a request for a soda if the bartender has one back there, and then she retreats to the corner of the set of tables that Emily seems to be using as their parking ground. She puts her back to the wall where she has a good view of the whole room and the door too, then she settles in with her soda, pulling her sketch pad out of her go-bag. The habit of sitting quietly in a corner is more like a way of life for her, and she starts making quick drawings of the people in the room while they're all doing their own things.

She might be kinda glad she can't hear the wailings of her brothers and Lighthouse-adjacent folks while they "sing."

Jolene’s expression very gradually shifts from uncomfortable to outright grimacing the more Joe talks. There's an uncomfortable, tittering laughter that bubbles up from her like a rat’s claws on tile, and that grimace turns into an awkward and forced smile. Mention of Brian, though, flashes a look of wordless worry across her face. It's been too long since she'd seen her uncle, and it felt in a way like she'd abandoned him.

The guilt in her eyes makes that all the more literal feeling.

“Hi, Joe,” Lene says with an awkward furrow of her brows, looking down to his offered hand toward Emily and silently thanks whatever is listening that it isn't aimed at her. She flicks a look over to Emily, then settles the black case down on the table. Flipping the latches, she opens it to reveal a swing arm and a small spindle and some knobs and a small internal speaker.

“It's not battery powered so…” Jolene furrows her brows and fishes for the 45 in her courier bag, pulling out the small, paper-sleeved record. The art on it is a faded mess of sun-bleached blue and yellow, but the words Moody Blues can be seen on the cover, along with the words Boy and Favor, though the rest is illegible. It looks considerably old.

“It's from the studio,” Lene explains, pulling the record out and setting it down on the spindle. “If it's plugged in it'll work pretty well. And,” Lene offers the album cover over to her and flips it around, revealing the tracklist on the back. One of which, she points out, is entitled Emily’s Song.

“Happy birthday,” Lene says awkwardly.

God DAMN it, Joe. Emily almost, almost tunes out when he's quickly rattling off major, HIGHLY personal details about his life out of sheer horror of him doing it. There's a look darted to Lene, a silent plead to save her from having to answer, even if it means leaving Joe with his hand hanging there in the air literally all night. Would it kill people to just socialize without sharing their life story?

Her wonder at the surprise-reveal of the record player eases some of that tension, her fingers tipping the arm up and down gently as she looks over the contents of the case. No, she definitely didn't have one of these lying around at home. "I think most people wouldn't have a record player in this day and age, Lene." she replies with cautious amusement. Emily's not sure if she'll find the same humor in the comment, after all. She looks up with a well-meaning smile. "Looks like I'm now one of the cool cats that do. This was really…"

She trails off as the record is retrieved, skimming the worn-out cover, and then squinting to see the pointed out title before taking the sleeve carefully to get a better look. Her brow ticks up and then she's shaking her head, holding the record cover to herself. "I'm touched. This is really thoughtful of you." The words are spoken more softly, humbled. Owain's on-key singing of that fragile, ranging tune in the background somehow seems fitting in the moment.

She turns to Lance before she can let the feeling settle for too long, her cheeks already warm after being exposed to too much kindness this evening. "Don't you go singing a sad song either after this, hear me?" she warns, tilting the cover away so she can look down at the track list again. "I'll probably go after that."

It’s too bad Brynn can’t hear Owain singing — he’s pretty good at it. Damn musician families and their natural talent. Owain was cursed to be tall and good at music. A few other folks are starting to notice, at least.

Well it goes like this: The fourth, the fifth, the minor fall and the major lift, The baffled king composing Hallelujah…hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah…

At least he can perform for Emily’s sake, right? He sways a little to the music, watching as Lene totally outdoes him with her personalized gift — but she also had the benefit of knowing the girl previously.

Maybe there's a God above, but all I've ever learned from love, was how to shoot somebody who outdrew ya… And it's not a cry that you hear at night, it's not somebody who's seen the light, It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah..

It is kind of a sad song for a birthday. Maybe he’ll sing something happier next round.

Briefly, as Emily examines her gift, Jolene is distracted by Owain’s singing. Something about the song stabs at her, maybe something associated with it. Jolene’s jaw clenches, and she looks down to the hand she keeps cradled bear her side and stares vacantly, looking at the floor through it.

“We work together at the radio station,” is what Lance explains, watching Jolene with a hint of concern in his eyes at her reactions to things, one hand rubbing to the side of his neck. Maybe he shouldn’t’ve encouraged her in after all. He steps over anyway, though he doesn’t crowd her. “Good to see you outside of the— “

“— oh, wow, ‘Lene.” The revelation of the present brings a smile full to his lips, “That’s awesome!”

His gaze sweeps to the machine, then, a smile tugging up a bit— and he answers Emily, “I can’t sing half as well as Owain there, and I definitely can’t sing sad songs, so no worries there…”

"Oh don't worry Lene. You're not getting a handshake." Joe remarks with a sly look on his features. Joe is not sly. Joe has never been sly. So it probably comes to no one's surprise when he follows that up with something. "You're getting a hug. Because I haven't seen you in years. And that is totally primal that you and Lance work together. Lance is awful at filling me in on what's going on in his life. Like the fact that he's working with an old friend." He makes a face at Lance, then looks back to Emily, his hand still held out to her across the table, his other hand moves in a disjointed lighthouse cant to keep Brynn up to speed. Easier to do one handed maybe? Or maybe just the motions are familiar enough he hopes Brynn understands them. Cuz his hand is still held out.

And he even leeeeeans forwards, reaching it across the table. He withdraws a bit so as not to interfere with Jolene's present gifting, but after a minute of Emily looking it over Joe will leeeeeeean back in again. His hand bobs up and down, and then side to side a bit, as if maybe he's not sure if she's seen it. Joe can do this all night Emily. ALL NIGHT! “Is that a church song there Metallo?” He asks, turning his head to look over at Owain for a moment, looking slightly confused. No complaints about the singing, just confused by the song itself.

All Emily can do at that point is level a deadpan stare at Joe, not the slightest bit apologetic. The look says there's no way she's taking that hand. Nope - not inviting herself into the mess that would be the demanded self-introduction. Sorry, not sorry, Joe.

"Definitely not a church song." She has no problem with chiding him, letting out an amused snort. As Owain's song comes to its close, she turns back to face him and clap politely. He stuck with it, after all!

Slipping off of the stage, Owain rolls his eyes at Joe. “You know nothing about musical history or theory, Joe. It’s Leonard Cohen.” Emily understands, at least. “It’s definitely not a church song. More like…I dunno. There are lots of different kinds of Hallelujah. Could be sad or happy, or even sarcastic. It’s…lots of things.”

The metallokinetic pours himself another beer, peering over Jolene’s gift. “Oh man, that’s awesome. Hey, Emily, I have some records at my dorm,” he murmurs, grinning over to the girl. “Maybe we can give them a listen some time.” He could use a friend who is as into music as he is. “Have you heard The Wall on a record player? It’s great.”

He does glance over once at Brynn, but he doesn’t let his gaze linger. Giving her space apparently means avoiding any conversation with her?

Brynn can't hear the song, but she can see what he's doing, and the energy he puts into it. When Owain steps down off the stage and glances her way, she shoots him a grin — even if things were awkward, he's still a friend. She just doesn't know what to say about the fact that Lance freaking well made her think Owain was bleeding to death in front of her. That image hasn't gone away. She's even tried to draw it just to exorcise it. It makes her break out in a cold sweat again.

So she shifts her attention a little bit, watching the group chatter among themselves. She's catching bits and pieces, especially when Joe accompanies most of his babbling with signs for her, and she seems to be enjoying the corner where she can watch everything.

The bartender reappears in their close vicinity — with an obnoxious amount of fries. Truly obnoxious. Some baskets are crispier than others, but all taste of oil that probably should have been changed a few weeks ago. He's very chill about the delivery, spreading the baskets across the two (three?) tables the group are split between, and also provides refills both asked and unasked for, all with a charming smile. The aggressive refills of course come with their additional charges, but they're provided in such a friendly way. "Anything I can get for you?" he asks Jolene, the wide serving tray now flipped over and sandwiched between his arm and his side.

Owain's enthusiasm for music is met with a polite smile in response, one driven purely by the buzz from the alcohol. She's not a random smiler, after all. "No. I don't really listen to records, though " she glances up at Jolene with an even broader smile. "I now have one."

Emily claps her hands together before her suddenly, then shoos Lance toward the karaoke machine. "Your turn!" she reminds him, then reaches to grab a few of the fries. Realizing she hasn't seen Brynn in a while, she peeks around to look down at her and share yet another smile in her direction. If nothing else, Emily seems to be enjoying herself at the moment, comfortable at last in the company around her.

Brynn’s grin prompts another flush of Owain’s cheeks, and he ventures to shoot the girl a small, sheepish smile of thank you — but he’s still pretty offput by everything, and someone else’s birthday party hardly seems like the proper place to have a conversation about how their attempt at a date ended with him getting shot in the chest by a certain someone in this room.

So instead, he takes a draught of the beer. At this rate, it’ll be a wonder of Lance doesn’t leave with a bloody nose. He grins over to Emily. “Well, then I’ll have to introduce you to my collection.” He nods, and now there’s no way Emily isn’t going to get the puppy-like Metallokinetic invading her time and space with his music.

He does glance over to Jolene, grinning. “Good gift, totally puts my coffee and music to shame.” He glances her over thoughtfully. “Were you at Pollepel way back when? I keep meeting people I remember but don’t remember, because I was kind of a traumatized mute when I was there.”

“No, thank you,” Lene distractedly and belatedly answers the bartender with an awkward and forced smile. Her demeanor isn't much different from a skittish housecat, flicking a wide-eyed stare at every noise and begrudgingly enduring every bit of social interaction with minimal squirming. When attention moves back to Emily, Lene starts to recede into the conversational bushes, as much as she's able to until Joe and Owain start bringing up the siege.

Joe just gets a wide-eyed look, then a hesitant smile and a nervous dip of her head down. The hug she treats that like a cat too; still and shoulders hunched, enduring it until it meets its not-soon-enough end. Owain earns a quick glance, then averted eyes down to Jolene’s sneakered feet. “I— don't recall you. Sorry. It— that was a hard time for everyone.”

There's another look at Owain, though, and Lene looks down at the ground. She doesn't recognize him from this timeline. But that's a topic she seems disinclined to revisit.

Joe nods his head slowly as he realizes that Emily is not going to shake his hand in greeting. Soooo he scoots around the table, and first he scoops up Lene and gives her a big squeezing hug. He doesn't hold it too long, but she definitely gets all the hug. Then he moves on to Emily and she's going to get one too. He'll grab her up and give her the same sort of squeezing hug he gave Lene. And once that is done he'll turn around and go back to his seat and sit down. "Pollepel was nuts." Joe nods his head in agreement with that sentiment. "Speaking of which. We need to plan a trip out to Rochester to see Aunty Stork. I haven't gotten to see her yet since we've been back. Should track down the rest of the Ferry that we can too and at least go say hi." He sits down and looks over at Lance expectantly. "Your turn on the mic ninja man." He stays quite comfortably where he's at, nomming on fries. Who's fries? Doesn't really matter. Everyone's fries. No one's fries. All the fries.

“Sorry, you two— “ Lance offers a wry smile over towards Emily and Jolene, hands spreading, “We tend to pretty much absorb everyone nearby into our family on the drop of a hat; if anyone gets too familiar for your liking just smack us on the nose.”

They had a weird upbringing.

A grin’s flashed over at Owain as he heads for the mic, “Man, I don’t know how I’m gonna follow you up, that’s a hell of a set of lungs on you there, but let’s give it a try.”

The mic’s snatched up, and he peers down at the screen to find a song to go with. Finally he grins, tapping one and straightening up as the music starts.

“We close our eyes… we close our eyes and dream — and the world has turned around again,” he sings out as the sounds of Oingo Boingo play out over the speakers, eyes closed as he sways back and forth behind the mic to the music, “When everybody is running in the big race and— having a good time— who am I to cast a shadow? Who am I? I looked death in the face last night, I saw him in the mirror— and he simply smiled… he told me not to worry… he told me just— to take my time…”

Brynn grins at Emily, noting the other girl's uneasiness with Joe's rambling. She's not the first person to just not know what to do when Motormouth is at it, and Brynn's expression is sympathetic. She knows her brother and his tendencies! She's got an extra spot in her corner if Joe is too much for Jolene or Emily to handle. Or… they could just swat him, like Lance suggested. He's kinda like a puppy that way.

Both brows climb her forehead when she watches Lance take the microphone from Owain. There's a bit of a wary expression, as if she might be waiting for fists or something… but they don't happen and Lance looks quite silly. And like he's having a ball. Her pencil goes into overdrive while she giggles silently.

Joe's hug on Lene is met with a raised brow, the whole thing looking like a very awkward experience. The powers that be must overhear Emily's thoughts or something and decide to have a laugh at her expense, because then Joe comes for her with the same hug. Much like Jolene, she tolerates the hug but doesn't return it, tense throughout its duration.

Lance's invitation to smack Joe on the nose came about thirty seconds too late. If she could rewind time, she'd go back and do it. For the time being, she has a full glass of beer and can sip the moment away. And also enjoy the fries.

She listens to the ongoing sounds only halfway, her heel bouncing underneath the table as she thinks ahead to what she'll go play shortly.

Apparently, Owain isn’t as upset about it as it could be. He smiles at Jolene, and shrugs. “It was tough for everyone, but no use dwelling on the past.” That could just be the beer that he’s gulping down talking. “This shouldn’t be a sad time, anyhow, nobody should have a sad birthday.” He nods in agreement with his own statement.

Lance…doesn’t get a word from Owain. More like, Owain just glares at him. There could be fists…but they don’t happen yet. The metallokinetic is still doing his best to remain civil, mostly for Emily’s sake, and kind of for Brynn’s sake.

He’d really rather punch Lance without Brynn watching — though he doesn’t care if anyone else sees. Still doesn’t rule out a flying fist by the end of the night.

A grin is cast back to Emily and Jolene. “I’ll give you a less invasive life story. I have seen a lot of really awful shit, and my late father, Griffin Mihangle, is a piece of shit and is totally not a war hero. I go to Brooklyn College, where I study Chemistry. I’m about to go into my sophomore year, actually,” he grins. “I mostly only study it because my ability is cool and it lets me cheat with about…three fourths of the subject matter.”

That wasn’t too overindulgent.

While the party is in full swing, the bar is still in business for other patrons who may stop in for a game or a beer or some of that greasy yet delicious food. So it makes sense that the door might open for other people coming in or leaving. This time, when the door opens, it happens for someone entering.

Devon Clendaniel is probably more familiar to only one of those gathered for the festivities. The others may have seen him during the Trials, but he’s not a readily familiar or well-known figure. And he’s not immediately looking for the party but angled to sit at the bar. A menu is grabbed and a nod given to the guy behind the counter. He casts a glance over his shoulder toward the partying, attention drawn by the karaoke more than anything else.

From the guy singing to those who’re gathered around the tables, it’s really only passing interest. People have gatherings all the time, even his fellow Hounds have been known to have some interesting get-togethers. But he double-takes seeing Emily there. Dev gives her only a small smile and nod, then turns back to his own business at the counter.

Much like the glances between him and Brynn, Owain's displeasure for Lance is hard to overlook, especially considering how close he's scooted toward Emily's seat at this point. His swiveling attention and energy inspires her to look away and have another sip from her own drink, theorizing a way to make whatever's going on there none of her business whatsoever.

But there he goes, spiraling off a self-introduction that's a step just below Joe's overbearing share, and it's everything she can do not to wince at it. "Should make it easy enough to graduate then." Emily replies absently, her gaze having wandered as she wonders how to deflect any vocalized or implied 'how about you's that might soon come her way. She notices Devon seated unexpectedly at the bar just a few seats down from where she'd been not minutes before, and her brow ticks upward wordlessly in surprise before he looks away.

"…There's worse career paths to go into, besides," she supposes out loud, distracted. The look in her eyes is of a woman taking stock of something, and there's a quick succession of glances that go on. To Owain briefly, then to Lance and his progression with his song, and then finally back to the table and its contents. She determines she needs another drink before it's her turn to sing.

Maybe it was her training in the Wasteland, maybe it was something about the intervening years, but Jolene Chevalier has never lost her ability to disappear at a moment's notice. Nowadays it's a less supernatural form of disappearance, though. Somewhere after Joe’s big and the conversation shifting, Devon's arrival, and the party ramping up Jolene just… vanished. The present she got lays right where she left it, but the fading redhead has made a discreet escape from the crowd and the noise. Maybe it wasn't the Wasteland or the war that taught her that, though. Maybe that's just something she picked up from a Lance, long, long ago.

“We close our eyes… and the world has turned around again,” Lance finishes up; he’s got a decent voice, although he can’t quite match Owain. A grin curves his lips as he sets the mic on its spot and steps away, looking over to the gathered—

— there’s a brief flicker of the warmth in his expression when he notices that Jolene’s gone, but he covers it swiftly —

— and then he’s walking over with a spread of his hands, grinning, “Alright, who’s next up at the mic? Birthday girl, you need to take a try up there!”

The case for the record player is carefully snapped back shut, the cover resting on top of it. "All right, all right." she groans melodramatically in Lance's direction.

She navigates around the side of the table, her expression not at all matching her grumbling. She's snaked one of her crutches back around her forearm to help her move with a bit more confidence. She scoots past Lance and takes the microphone from him with a smirk, her attention afterward moving to the machine.

She makes her decision quickly, an immediately identifiable peal of guitar ringing out while her eyes are still on the screen. Her nerves are high, but she's committed! She's going to do this! She lifts the microphone up, taking a deep breath and glancing out over the group.

Or who knows. Maybe it wasn't as familiar to the rest of the kids-teens-adults. They all had a pretty unique upbringing. Too late to back out now! The few seconds are up.

"Coming out of my cage, and I've been doing just fine — gotta gotta be down, because I want it all—"

She looks straight ahead, not really at anything in particular, focused on the song. The lyrics are practically second nature, and if she's not normally an okay singer, then she must have particular practice with this one. Her shoulders sway.

"And I just can't look — it's killing me. And taking control…"

The metallokinetic has lapsed into silence, drinking his second beer with a rather neutral expression on his face, though he does cast a brief smile toward Emily as she begins to sing. It doesn't take long for him to lapse back into silence, however.

It becomes clear as he works on a third beer that Owain is not really all that okay with being in the same space as Lance — there are some unresolved issues that need dealing with, and it makes for a bit of an uncomfortable vibe.

It's looking more and more likely that Lance is going to leave with a black eye or bloody nose tonight.

From Devon’s seat at the bar, there isn't much attention given to the party. After his first initial look, he's kept to himself aside from exchanging the usual pleasantries with the barkeep. He even places a food order to go, while Lance wraps up his song.

He turns slightly in his seat when Emily begins to sing, just far enough to watch without being overly obvious. His mouth turns up in his normal, kind of crooked grin as he listens.

After several measures, Dev turns back to the bar. He talks with the server again, more of the usual between barkeep and patron. Eventually he pulls his wallet from a pocket and slides over his money owed. A few more words are exchanged before he's left alone again, and he looks over to watch the remainder of the song.

Joe goes quiet, a frown on his features when Jolene disappears. He keeps glancing at where she was, then looking around a bit as if he'll spot her lurking in a corner somewhere, then looks back down at the table and eats a frie. Rinse, wash and repeat. "Owain you cause trouble tonight and I'll take you out back myself. Not sure what the problem is you have with Lance but this isn't the place to settle it. Got it?" He asks, lifting his head to look across the table at Owain. "This is Emily's birthday and we will not have a super hero style battle in here." He stares at the other kid intently, his hands moving as ever for Brynn's sake, then he goes back to his semi sulking. He didn't mean to drive Lene off, and he's rather sad about doing so. A glance over towards the singing Emily, a half smile and a little wave as she sings, though his attention wanders around a lot, never in one place too long. Head on a swivel even in here.

Sitting there drawing Lance while he sings, Brynn splits her attention between that and the people around her, though she's not following conversations at all. She notes when Jolene leaves but she doesn't interfere. The other woman looked brutally uncomfortable. More so even than Emily herself, which makes Brynn wonder why she set up a birthday party with bunches of people. Not the time or place to ask, obviously.

Her gaze is drawn by Joe's confrontation with Owain because Joe out of habit is signing. And her eyes go wide. Scrambling out of her seat and around the table, she grabs her brother's forearm. Hey! Back off! His problem with Lance and the situation with me isn't on you, Joseph. It's my problem, I'll deal with it. Her hands fly in brief sharp movements, making sure she has Joe's attention, though she keeps it in Cant so as to keep it mostly private. Lance played a prank that freaked me out while I was with Owain. Owain's pissed about it — and frankly, so am I, but I've already dealt with that with Lance. Stay out of it. Owain's not going to start anything.

She whips around and looks at Owain, leaning in to kiss his cheek lightly. I'm sorry Joe's an idiot. Please don't hit Lance — I see you giving him the eye. But he already gets how bad it was. I almost went home. To Canada. Which is news to Joe. She almost left. Now, enjoy the night. Don't be BOYS about this. She gives Joe a deep Sister-Eyeball. And then she heads back to her seat, the vast majority of the people in the room with not a single clue what just happened.

Best part about sign language.

So over there, Lance’s family is fighting and it’s pretty inarguably his fault, Jolene’s gotten overwhelmed and left, and worst of all Owain’s a better singer than him. So it’s not a great night so far for the acoustikinetic, but he’s not letting it show, settling into a chair a bit away and cheering on Emily as she sings while studiously not looking at the other argument.

He’s apparently old enough to remember the song as she sings it, chiming in now and again as his head bobs with the music. No beer for him, just keeping up the smiles and munching on fries as the birthday girl sings.

As Joe suddenly confronts Owain, the teen’s hackles raise, and he sits up a little taller. He probably couldn’t take Joe in a fist fight, but that doesn’t seem to stop the puffing up that happens initially. “My problem with Lance?” Brown eyes narrow. “You should talk to him about time and place, he—”

It’s a good thing Brynn is here — she’s probably the only person who can keep Owain from doing something stupid like hauling off and hitting Lance in the jaw. He still might, but not tonight. As it stands, her intervention almost immediately sets the metallokinetic back into a calm state. Her kiss on his cheek — well, that turns his cheeks red, and, slightly dumbfounded, he just nods to the girl. I’m sorry, is the only response he gives.

Though he does give Lance one last angry glower.

The disagreement is noticed as voices raise a little, and the young man at the bar gives the group a look. The only weight it carries is that of someone who’s seen a few fights, broken up a few fights, and is likely well versed in apprehending people. It also doesn’t look like he’s planning to involve himself much more than just that look. Especially since it seems like the girl with her hands going pretty fiercely has it well under control.

His attention slips back to Emily until he’s prompted by the barkeep again. Devon pulls his attention back around and nods at the guy who produces a bag that’s just beginning to show greasy spots around the bottom. A few more words pass between them, casual for whatever they are, and he slides off the stool. With the bag in hand, he gives the barkeep a short wave as he steps away and turns for the door.

The break in the middle of the song is the worst part, one that no one warned Emily about. Maybe someone would have, had she bothered to ask. You just kind of have to stand there awkwardly stand there waiting for the words to come back. As a result, she notices the conflict that almost unfolds, though for all she knows it could be over the fries, or something else inconsequential. When Brynn intervenes, it becomes even more mysterious since it involves a language she doesn't speak.

Lance is there looking positive, though! She tries to not remember Devon at the bar for the moment. She's already had enough awkward situations to navigate this evening without letting her attention drift his way too much and tempt an impromptu conversation. When? Not now. Definitely not now. She's busy.

The break ended at some point and she's singing along again by heart, though she doesn't quite remember starting up again. Lot of nerves going on up here that would have taken over right now if not for the lukewarm mug of bravery she'd been sipping from.

Somewhere inside it, though, Emily's genuinely pleased. Just a few short months ago, she'd have been the first to laugh for suggesting this would be how she'd spend her birthday. But here she was — being bold, celebrating, and making new friends. There's a precious beauty to that, impromptu as it all has been. And hell, she was far from comfortable, but…

"But it's just the price I pay — destiny is calling me. Open up my eager eyes, 'cause I'm Mister Brightside~"

Joe blinks a few times at Brynn and then narrows his eyes at her, his hands flashing in Lighthouse Cant not regular sign. Hey. Owain is the one sitting here looking like he's going to start swinging at Lance any moment and I'm just trying to put a stop to it before it happens. Like I said I don't care what is between them this is not the place for it. If they want to beat the tar out of each other tomorrow that's fine. Or even after the party that's fine too! But not here during the party. Utterly uncool. He's quiet the whole time he's signing at his sister. He apparently doesn't pick up on the nuance of what she means by go home. Cuz Joe isn't a terribly subtle person and sometimes he doesn't get subtlety either. It's only then that he turns and seems to notice Owain getting all puffy chested. "Look dude. You two want to beat the tar out of each other later? That's fine. Have at it. But not during the party okay? Uncool man. Utterly uncool." He points to his eyes, then to Owain's eyes, then back to his eyes and back to Owain again.

"Hey! Guy at the bar! Join or quit staring!" He calls over to Devon, though it's not in an angry tone. Joe has a big grin on his face cuz he's already moved past the confrontation of just seconds ago, so he's got an arm up and is waving to Devon happily trying to beckon him over to the party too. The more the merrier. Does Joe know him? Who knows!? Then he retakes his seat and looks over at Lance, tongue stuck out at his brother before he turns his attention to the birthday girl's singing.

He’d almost made it to the door before being called out. Dev pauses in mid stride, leaning with the intent to continue, but then he looks over his shoulder instead. He hesitates visibly, not really wanting to crash the party, but the invitation does deserve a response.

He shoots Emily an apologetic look as he approaches the gathering, but the rest of the group gets kind of an awkward grin. “Yeah, um…” he starts once he’s close enough to actually talk and not shout across the bar.

“Sorry. I was just enjoying the music.” Devon pushes one shoulder up to shrug, then recalls the bag in his hand. He lifts it a little so they’d know why he was hanging around, then drops it to his side again. “Listening, I mean. While I was picking up supper. I’m… I don’t want to crash what you’ve got going on. Thanks though.”

Emily doesn't bother singing through the outro as she overhears Joe call out to Devon. The microphone is quickly turned off and set back down in its place, and she steps forward to try and intercept.

She's wordlessly shaking her head as Devon stammers his way through his excuse, her face still warm from before. Was he enjoying or was he listening? Poor guy was doomed to another night of being damned either way if he stuck around, most likely.

"Don't let Joe bully you into staying." she warns coolly, standing close to the edge of the group. Out of habit, she brushes her hair from her face to tuck it behind her ear. "Get out of here while you can. He's handsy."

There must be some amount of guilt at suggesting he get back to his evening, as she adds with forced nonchalance, "I'll … text you or something later. Enjoy your food."

As he goes, Emily watches the door for a long moment, lost in thought. She snaps from it to look down at Joe with a well-meaning grin, hand loosely balled in a fist pummelling his bicep. "Inviting your whole family wasn't good enough, now you have to start roping in strangers from the bar?"

All this talk about not beating each other up at Emily's party, and look who threw the first punch.

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