Just For One Night


emily_icon.gif devon_icon.gif

Scene Title Just For One Night
Synopsis Devon is determined to make things right with Emily.
Date January 7, 2019

Brooklyn College

Emily's hand claps around the side of her phone to try and stifle the noise that comes from it unexpectedly. It's not like it normally rings at this time of day. Brow furrowed at it, she glances at who it is and signs Sorry at the front of the room repeatedly without actually looking up.

Incoming Call: That Idiot

Letting out a patient sigh, she swipes the option to decline with an auto-reply that she'll call back later. Silencing the phone, she waits for the inevitable text.

It was his thing. He'd call, leave a voicemail, and then also text just in case she didn't listen to the voicemail. Which, granted, for almost a month she'd been deleting them outright.

That Idiot
«4:27 pm»
I'm in town. Can we talk?

Posture shifting at the desk she occupies, Emily breathes out a quiet swear and looks up to the whiteboard, gaze unfocused. The reply is typed out unfortunately fast.

«4:27 pm»
I'm on campus right now.

It's meant to be a 'no' and not an invitation, but she realizes it might come across as one only after it's sent.

That Idiot
«4:29 pm»
I'll come meet you.

A little over a half hour later, there's no one else sitting in the classroom anymore save for Emily, who still hasn't left after finally reading that reply. The lights above darken automatically, not having sensed movement for several minutes now.

"Fuck," she whispers at herself, finally leaning over to collect her bag.

Brooklyn College

Library Café

There’s plenty of open tables in the cafe, given the late afternoon hour. Those who don’t have evening classes are more likely to be found in the cafeteria or possibly even the library. Behind the counter a couple of baristas lament over their course load for the semester while pretending to be keeping up on the cleaning. The only recent drink has been a coffee, which helps occupy a table near a window.

The other half of that occupation is Devon’s familiar face, recognisable even with his head bowed slightly. His eyes pick out the small details of the lid that covers his disposable travel cup, tracing letters and staring at the little hole that’s punched through. His fingers curl around the cup as much for warmth as for something to do with them while he waits.

“This was insane,” he whispers to himself. It isn’t the first time and, like all the times before, it doesn’t change his mind. Insane or not, the chance to see Emily again — even if it’s cutting close to the upcoming mission — was not something he would pass up. And hopefully she’ll show.

The thin blonde crossing the patio outside slows her pace, having spotted Devon sitting against the window. She almost comes to a halt on the stone, hand tight around the strap of the old bookbag slung over her shoulder. Maybe this is enough, she tells herself in silence. He looks well, for whatever it's worth. This should be enough.

But she turns away and continues apace for the door, swinging back around into the café's entryway. Much the same as she did outside, she turns the corner and watches him from afar, closer to the door than she is to the man with the coffee. She lingers there for longer than she thinks she'd get away with.

Exhaling slowly, she calls out, "Dev."

It's Emily Epstein's voice. She's wearing a beige duffel coat, looks as though she's not slept well since the last time he's seen her, is standing on her own completely unaided, and keeps her distance from the table he sits at.

Despite that distance, her lips firm in the semblance of an acknowledging smile. It's the closest thing to a formal greeting he'll get.

Fingers tighten around the cup and cause it to creak lightly against the lid. Devon lets out a breath and closes his eyes for a second. It’s all in effort to keep himself from checking his phone and giving in to the tiny voice of doubt. One hand releases the coffee, and he lifts it to scrub at his face. It doesn’t do much to erase the thoughts, the wondering if Emily’s going to show. Or the what if’s that follow if she doesn’t.

Leaning back, he turns to look out the window. Emily’s already gone when he does, and all he sees is a few students too far away and walking the wrong direction to be headed for the cafe. After a moment he drags his attention back to his coffee, though there’s little interest in actually drinking it. Maybe he should’ve stayed in Rochester.

He allows himself to entertain the doubting thought until he hears his name. It brings his eyes up and a smile follows when he sees Emily standing there, and he pushes back from the table to stand. It takes a few seconds for him to realize there’s things missing, either wheelchair or crutches. Surprise briefly crashes over his smile, but Dev recovers with, “Hey, Emily.”

Emily tilts her head with a small shrug, hand still tight around the strap of her bag. Her brow furrows for just a moment, an unreadable flicker in her expression before it smooths. Even then, whatever she's thinking is carefully kept to herself.

"You wanted to talk," she reminds him, her smile gone though she tries to keep her voice light. "What's up? You find anything out yet?"

“Yeah.” His smile falters then disappears completely as he looks aside. Maybe he should’ve just called instead of making the trip down. He drags a hand over the back of his neck and looks aside. “We’re in the field Thursday. The most I know so far is it's dangerous. And… I don't know.” The hand on his neck works its way to his face then falls to his side with a sigh.

“I wanted to make sure I saw you again,” he continues. “Before I head out.” His brows furrow and knit as he angles a look at Emily, worried. “I'm sorry. I'm sorry that I tricked you and interrupted your… everything. Most of all I'm sorry I hurt you, and I swear I will do everything in my power to never let it happen again.”

As he looks off, so does Emily, down near her toes. Her gaze shoots back up as he says where he'll be and how soon, brow climbing. Her hand slowly slides from the strap, arm falling to her side. As he starts his apology, her mouth hardens into a line. She'd turn away from it, but seeing him say it instead of just hearing it is different.

"Did you think I didn't hear you before?" Emily asks softly, not moving from her spot. There's no spite to it, but very little emotion at all.

Her eyes dance over him, taking in his nerves and his worry. Lips part to speak but she stays still, the fingers of her other hand pinching the side of her jacket. She blinks rapidly, head bowing for a moment to help her mentally recenter, throat working.

"Devon, I can't forgive what Richard did." she says in that same passive way as before. "But I accept your apology this time." Emily forces a quick smile, her eyes closing as she draws in a steadying breath. Her brow twitches again, expression contorting for longer this time before she's able to rein it in.

"Dev, one thing I have never understood is why you care so much." she confesses on the edge of a weary breath. "I don't know why you put up with me being such a shit to you and still want anything out of me." Her voice hardens, "I thought you were trying to hurt me back in return for it. That things finally starting to work out was too little, too late."

Her shoulders lift up in a fragile shrug before a hand comes to run through her hair. It stays on the top of her head as she looks off past him. "I thought a lot of different things."

“I never wanted to hurt you.” He'd known she would be angry, but not that his choice would cause pain. Devon’s shoulders lift and fall in a helpless shrug, and he takes a step closer. “I put up with it because I want you in my life. I have since I saw you at the gala. Believe it or not, but I've spent more time in town since we crossed paths again at the hospital just on the chance that you'd agree to meet somewhere. For years my family could barely get me down here just for holidays.”

His feet shift, but he doesn’t step any closer, and he studies Emily for a long minute. He starts to say more, it happens twice before he looks down and sighs. “I don't know. I don't know what your thoughts or feelings are. I know I want to be not just friends… but more, I want a relationship with you.”

Stupid fucking Wolfhound puppy.

"Shut up," Emily whispers hoarsely. "Just shut up." Her head starts to shake, either at his words or her own reaction to them, and her feet finally come unstuck from the ground. Her body shifts, thought given to run away instead of having to deal with this.

Her head turns back and she barrels instead toward Devon, face burrowing into his shoulder.

Arms come around his shoulder and torso in a crushing hug, her head turning into his chest as she holds on like he might disappear if she lets go. Her teeth grit before she lets out a pained breath, her dominant arm shifting around him in the embrace to brace her fingers around the back of his neck before sliding so her palm is placed on his shoulder instead, at rest for a moment.

Then she balls her hand into a fist and pounds it into his shoulder hard, still not looking up. "You're a fucking emotional terrorist and I hate you for it."

Still, she doesn't move. She's very still after that.

"If anything happens to you, I'll hate you even more for it."

The longer she leans into him, the tension in her starts to ease, even if she can't properly address anything said or felt. She lets out an exasperated breath, curling her forehead deeper into his shoulder.

When she whispers, Devon brings his eyes up to watch her. As Emily moves, his head comes up and he steps just enough to meet her. His arms wrap around her shoulders and back, a hand tangles in her hair to hold her head to his shoulder. His own head tips down, forehead coming to rest on the top of her head.

He raises his head when she speaks, and his hand slips from cradling hers to resting just below her neck. He still holds her tightly, but his brows knit slightly with worry. But instead of forming a reply right away, he turns his head to rest against hers again.

“Do you want to go somewhere else for a while,” Dev does eventually ask, whispering against her hair. “Maybe dinner and a movie at Jared’s?”

"No," she whispers in return more fiercely than should be expected for such a simple question. Her head shakes, grip tightening on him instead of releasing. Emily lets out an uneasy sigh, realizing she's overreacted. "No, we…" she starts again, more forcefully, but also calmer. It takes her a moment, but she lifts her head off his shoulder, gaze distant and unfocused as she looks off past him out the patio windows.

For just a moment, she looks afraid.

Emily takes in a deep breath to steady herself, eyes darting between unseen subjects before she manages to look back up, expression smoothed. "No," she explains more calmly, as if she's come to a conclusion. "Not going anywhere near Raytech." Like that makes the most sense for why she's saying no.

Her brow ticks in a small furrow. "Maybe dinner, though?" she concedes with no small amount of hesitation. She really doesn't know. Her gut is tossed around like she's slipping wildly on ice, over and over.

“That's fair,” Devon says, of her avoiding Raytech. Jared's place has really been a default destination, the first place to come to mind. He watches Emily's indecision, brow creasing slightly as his own thoughts dip toward uncertainty, but he simply waits for her to speak again.

He musters a small grin and nods when the decision finally comes. “The diners…” The thought trails off as he looks away. “Or… your place.” The suggestion crawls out, like he's afraid to ruin the moment by even thinking it's an option. He shakes his head, and follows quickly with, “Actually, let's just walk somewhere and …maybe we'll find a vendor along the way.”

A warning look is shot in his direction at the suggestion they go to her apartment, one that doesn't fade immediately even when he moves on to another suggestion. Emily doesn't echo his smile back, shifting her feet to stand more by his side rather than in front of him.

"Doesn't have to be anything special." she points out. "Just… a place to sit is fine." Waiting for him to take the lead on leading them somewhere, a frown starts to appear.

"Do you know how long you'll be gone yet?" she asks once they're outdoors again, adjusting the looping scarf she wears around her neck to help it better guard against the wind.

The grin and his arms fall when Emily moves, though one hand stays on her back for a few seconds before it also falls away. Devon’s hands find his jacket pockets as he directs their path out of the cafe and toward one of the paths that’ll lead off campus.

“I don’t yet,” he answers quietly. His eyes angle toward her, his eyebrows knitted still. “A few days, maybe a week. Depends on when we ship out and whatever debriefing after.” To start their path is mostly just set to finding the main roads again, but eventually it becomes noticeable that they’re wandering in the general direction of Yamagato Park.

"So, basically, if I haven't heard from you by February…" Emily starts, then lets an arch of her brow finish the rest of the statement for her.

As they make their way down the footpaths, Emily starts with a fair amount of distance between her and Devon while they walk. After adjusting the straps of her bookbag once they exit the main campus block, it meanders for a few steps, elbows inches apart before she corrects her step again.

Come on, Epstein. Keep it together. Emily shouts at herself internally. Quit acting like you're not still mad at him.

She felt a lot of things regarding Devon at the moment, to tell the truth. Reconciling them was proving to be a bitch.

There was a lot she didn't care to discuss with him. There was a lot she also wanted to lean into him for. Him being here was an opportunity for emotional support she'd largely been lacking. But… that would require her letting him back in.

In of itself, that was a complicated thing. He was stuck in her already, like a drawstring trapped in a closed door. It should be an easy thing to displace him. But he'd snuck in somehow and she couldn't shove him back out.

So this was a thing. Possibly. Devon Clendaniel and Emily Epstein?

Her eyes flit to the sky for a moment, searching the aurora-slathered skyline. No. she tells herself forcefully. No, Emily. He'll just do something stupid again.

By the time she's come to that conclusion, she's walking so close by him their shoulders are almost brushing again.

"I don't really have an appetite right now," she tries to deflect before he can ask. "Whatever looks good to you."

“Something like that.” Devon's answer for the unfinished question is flat and some small attempt at lightening any worry that might be attached to it. It's a normal deflection of his own concerns about not coming home, but his usual grin is absent when he says it. “But more than likely it'll be only a few days, and I'll call soon as I can.”

As they walk, he keeps tabs on where they're headed. But he also watches Emily. With the campus behind, it's an easier route down sidewalks and along familiar streets, so he can more readily split his attention. Concern remains a shadow across his expression, but for a while he keeps his thoughts to himself.

Still, he's not blind to the conflict and debate she's having with herself. It's not even a relief when Emily does speak up, stalling any questions or ideas about food with a declaration that she's suddenly not hungry.

Lifting his head, Dev looks away from her and to the sidewalk instead. It's only for a second, because he pulls a hand from his coat pocket to wrap his arm around her back and draw her into his side. “I can just walk you home instead,” he offers. It isn't a question seeking invitation any further than the front stoop, just an old school request.

The flatness of his tone clues her in to how poor a joke it was to make, for all the different ways the blanks could be filled in. Face turning toward him, Emily's brow knits in a deep furrow. Ah, shit. "I meant… how long it'd be good to wait before doing something stupid like…" You know, what she'd done last time she couldn't get in touch with him.

She lets out an uneasy sigh, minding her feet before looking forward again. "Not that—" she starts to explain, but that was something she definitely wasn't going to say out loud, so the thought is quickly brought to a premature close.

When the silence is broken by him wrapping his arm around her, her brow ticks up in surprise. Home? "No, no, it's — fine. That's—" Emily lets out a laugh that echoes her surprise, her nerves gone from it for just a moment. There's something touching as it is amusing about the offer. "That's a long fucking walk in this cold, Dev."

She continues to chuckle, leaning her shoulder into him while they walk. Their footsteps don't match well, or at least hers don't line up with his.

"Um," she starts again, paying attention to where they're walking finally. "Maybe, we just…" Emily trails off sounding hopeful. Like maybe a good idea will finally hit her any second. Her pace slows, almost coming to a halt entirely.

“It wasn't stupid,” Dev counters quietly. “I'll give you Jared’s number. You can trust him.” At least then he'd know she'd have someone to turn to. For information at the very least.

A look slants at her when is he brings up the distance between the campus and wherever she lives. To him it isn't a huge thing, he's walked further. But for Emily, maybe it is more of a hike. He shifts a little, shrugging while keeping his arm around her. “We can take the bus.” It's a reasonable alternative. He slows his steps as he amends his idea to better match hers.

Which seems ideal until he's slowing and then stopping as she does. Devon turns his head to look at Emily. His arm tightens around her slightly. “What?”

His nonchalant shrug about it makes Emily smile again. Yes, maybe it'd be better to take the bus than walk nearly ten miles in January cold. "Might be a good idea. I'm all the way out near the hospital." she confides, sliding her arm around the small of his back in return before they stumble to their pause.

She still hasn't come up with an idea even then, starting to fall back into her thoughts. When Devon finally presses her for them, she shakes her head before reluctantly tipping it to the side in a kind of shrug before she comes out with it. "I don't know, maybe I just wish we could go back in time." Emily chuckles faintly. "Or stop it, or something, so at least now I'd be able to figure out just what to do with you." She smiles briefly up at him, expression tinged with apology for not knowing what to say or suggest.

Her arm tightening around him, her brow starts to slant severely. "I don't want you to go," she tells him sternly, like she's not happy about it one way or the other. "But neither do I know what to do."

"I'm not ready to forgive you, but I missed you." Emily adds more quietly, her eyes on his. "More than I thought I would." She tears them away to look down the road with a growing frown, trying to figure out the best course. "We could spend an hour on the bus back, or…" she looks up to the nearby neon lights radiating from Yamagato Park. "I don't know, Matsuri redo?"

He smiles in return, understanding the uncertainties of the moment. There isn’t enough time to make up for the lost time, or to go back and do over all the things that went sideways. Instead of lamenting, though, Devon tips his head to rest against Emily’s. Maybe they can find contentment in just the few hours he has left in town.

“I think you already have forgiven me,” he observes, lifting his head again so he can look at her. He isn’t teasing — there’s no smirky grin only the vague concern that’s been lingering — as he adds a voice to his own thoughts that maybe she just hasn’t realized.

With his eyes following hers to where Yamagato glows, Devon lifts a shoulder as he considers. Yamagato, even if there aren’t festivities happening, might be interesting. He missed most of the matsuri in October and hasn’t explored the park at all. However… “We don’t have to do anything,” he says, looking at her again, spoken as a way to make the decision seem less important.

Emily closes her eyes, leaning her head against his. Her jaw is set as she turns back into him, her arm circling around him with more force. When he lifts his head back up, her eyes open and she doesn't move at first, though her frown returns as he makes his presumption.

"Well, if you'd like for me to prove I haven't, I can just go," she points out sharply, her expression severe.

She'd rather not, though.

Looking away, she faces the lights again. Her hand pats his back twice before her arm snakes free, and she leans forward into a resumed walk. "We should probably think about getting out of the cold, though. Come on," she says in a softer voice, fully prepared to make the trek to the border in silence from there. "I'm sure they have a noodle shop or something. It's Little Japan after all."

“Probably.” Devon watches her until she starts walking again, then angles his attention to the fenced in grounds of Yamagato Park. He tries a couple of times to come up with something more to say, to cover the light crunch and shuffle of their shoes on the pavement. But he relents to the silence instead, and casts sidelong looks at Emily.

As they near the gate, his lets his arm drop away in order to take her hand. And at the gate, he shows his identification to enter the mini-city.

He stops not far inside and looks around. The last time he'd been inside the walls there was a parade and the time before that was the gala. Neither event had offered an opportunity to really see what was hidden for the regular visitors and residents. Only a handful of seconds pass and Dev turns to look at Emily, brows raised. “Where to?”

Emily lets out a thoughtful note, tucking her cards back into her wallet. She pauses to swing her back back off her shoulder and put it back inside, muttering to herself, "Guess it's a good thing I didn't bring the gun today…" as she tugs the zipper back closed. They'd given Emily a second glance at the 'Class U' listed on her registration card, but they'd at least let her pass. For many months, she'd have been turned right back around, she tries to tell herself. This was progress.

"Let's see…"

Emily blinks at the number of service bars on her screen when she pulls her phone from her pocket, murmuring "Wow," before pulling up a quick search. Her head tilts as she scans the results, gesturing vaguely with her phone. "Okay, just a few blocks over, there's a…" she frowns. "No, wait, that's closed." Cursing, she continues to scroll, and points off down the street again. "Some … family restaurant down this way." she mutters, dragging him by the hand along with her.

She takes her time, eyes lifting to watch the skies and the spots well-lit building kiss them. "It's crazy," Emily murmurs with interest. "The first time the aurora lights started down here was the night of the fireworks, I think. Until I saw the news the next day, I'd half wondered if it was some kind of techno-marvel thing they did for the festival." A thoughtful tone escapes her. "Feels like a lot of weird things have happened since then…" She glances back to Devon, brow lifted in an inquisitive manner. "Did you see the spiral thing it did on Christmas, or were you already out of town? That was pretty wild."

While their options for food are mulled over, Dev allows himself to look at the buildings nearby again. One day he should like to see the grounds in the daylight. His attention ticks back to Emily, as she begins one suggestion, then wanders when it's dismissed for more searching. “We could—” the option is broken off as she's decided suddenly and tugs him along.

A grin has his mouth curled slightly when he matches his stride to hers, but there's something still slightly melancholy to it.

His eyes lift to the sky as Emily begins speaking, finding the swirl of colors against the darkening sky. “They're really amazing,” he agrees. His voice is quiet, thoughtful. “I was at Jared's, but I didn't actually see the spiral.” Lowering his head, Devon looks over to her again. “What sorts of weird things’ve happened?”

Her hand squeezes his for a moment before she looks off. Emily shrugs, feigning nonchalance. "Oh, you know," she mumbles. "People getting visions and whatnot." Completely impersonal. "The radio's been on and off weird since then, too."

She draws in a breath, her free hand coming up to adjust her scarf again. It doesn't need adjusted. "Those visions though — I think I had one." Emily admits, looking uncomfortable as she adds, "Well, maybe more than one."

She chances a look back up at him, brow arching up in another silent question. You?

“The radio’s been weird?” That’s the first strangeness that Devon latches onto, but there’s confusion in his expression as he voices the question. He’s still watching her when she looks his way, not so much confused now as curious. “Yeah,” he admits slowly. His brows knit, and after a few seconds he looks away.

“It’s different this time.” He shakes his head slightly. “I don’t know what they could even mean, or who I could ask. Last time…” Last time it had something to do with those who’d traveled from the future.

Devon being the one to break off and look uncertain is unusual. Emily watches him closely, her hand still wrapped in his. "I get the frustration. I went looking for answers at an event some group held back in November, and they knew fuck all. It ended up just being a place for people to collectively get mad about not knowing what was going on." Her eyes narrow for a moment before she mentally puts away the rest of what came from that event.

"I thought it was just a bad dream the first time it happened. That someone was fucking with me, trying to get a reaction out of me. But it was too real, even if it felt impossible." Emily's eyes darken in thought as she reflects on that, her hand tightening around Devon's to fight off a wave of unpleasant realization.

She'd thought life without MS had been impossible, yet here she was - just the same as that other Emily. A life without her father was much more plausible. And the threat of it was now active, with whatever dangerous thing that Wolfhound would be embarking on looming so close.

She's about to try to explain what she saw when a thought intrudes violently: Maybe it would be redundant to tell him, because perhaps he'd been listening to what had happened when she and Avi had been locked in that room.

Emily looks back at Devon suddenly, hurt and caution suddenly back in her eyes though she says nothing to justify the change. Her grip on him loosens, fingers starting to fall away as they come up on the brightly-lit restaurant front only bearing the word 'Café' in English. She looks away, nodding at the door indicatively, the action rushed.

He nods absently, but his hand squeezes hers gently, to keep that connection and let her know he’s listening. Devon’s head turns when Emily stalls on explaining, and he studies her expression. His own becomes puzzled at the sudden distancing again, and he stumbles over the last several moments wondering if he’d said something.

His worry deepens as he finds nothing discernible within talk about the aurora or even the visions. He’d admitted to having something recently, and the dream from the Wasteland. His hand tightens on hers, to turn her around and face him as he stops before entering the cafe. “Emily, what’s wrong?”

"Nothing," Emily lies poorly, immediately. She doesn't want to ask, doesn't want to know. She'd just prefer to have this moment for what it's worth. Her brow furrows sharply as he pulls her back, keeping her from going forward, and Emily bites down on the urge to be frustrated with Devon. She curses herself silently instead. She should be better than this — should be better at keeping things to herself, or brushing them off.

"I'm not ready for what the answer might be," she amends the statement, sounding too uncomfortable as she says it for the response to be anything but honest. "So, please…" Her hand is still limp in his. "Can we not?" There's an urgency to the request. Like if they stop talking about it quickly enough, maybe nothing ever happened in the first place.

"I don't want to be more mad at you than I already am. Don't want to ruin this." Emily looks away, trying to slide her hand from his again. She's woefully unskilled at this - retreating back into herself even as she insists she wants to not spoil the moment. "I don't want to remember all the reasons I shouldn't be giving you the time of day right now, I just…"

She looks back to the restaurant, her shoulders lowering suddenly in a break of tension as she fails to keep her emotions on the level. She looks more fragile than before, the cracks in her resolve all but visible. "…would rather…"

No words follow, but her other hand comes away from her side, resting on top of Devon's. Even as one half of her pulls away, the other holds on tightly.

It’s a lie. Devon can tell that it is, for all that he seems unaware of how his own mouth runs and misses the subtle clues in looks and body language, he’s been been keenly aware of her tone and motions. But as he studies her while she explains without explaining he nods to accept the request without pushing for more details.

“Okay.” His voice is quiet, reluctance matching the concern that’s grown. With his other hand, he starts to reach toward her, to show in some gesture that he understands. The motion is less sure than it might have been moments before, and falls before it really gets started. He squeezes her hand instead, then lets his relax so she can slip free if she wants. Dev turns slightly, eyes flicking to the ground then lifting to the door of the cafe.

Him relenting should be a relief. It is and isn't. Emily's brow furrows down in apology as she looks up at him. "I'm…" sorry never quite gets voiced. Failing to say anything else of substance for the moment, she continues to hold his hand between hers, palm turning back into his. Instead of rushing past the tension, she leans her forehead into his shoulder to give it a moment to disappear on its own, a long and slow exhale accompanying putting herself back together. Head lifting, Emily meets Devon's eyes with another silent apology before nodding to the restaurant door, heading in.

“It’s alright.” Devon brings his free hand up to rest against the back of Emily’s head as she leans into him, then slipping to her shoulder when she leans away. He offers a smile, faint, concerned, but understanding. “It’s okay,” he says again, before she can turn and walk into the restaurant. He’s just behind then, and pulls the door open for them both before following her inside.

Though there's English present in the restaurant and on its menus, it's definitely not the location's first language. Not since it was turned into a Café-Restaurant Gusto location. Instead of passing any commentary about the language barrier, complaint or otherwise, Emily is quiet while they're brought to their table and settles into a seat at the high-backed booth next to Devon rather than across from him. She wraps her arm around his, fingers curling up in his palm while she lays her head on his shoulder. "What have they got?" she murmurs, looking at the unopened menu without any apparent plans to check for herself.

As they’re shown to their table, he lets his eyes wander over the décor and the layout. It looks like a good place, at least better than many of the places outside of Yamagato Park. He murmurs a thanks to the host as he slides into the booth, and looks up from the table when Emily joins him. Hopefully the surprise at her choice doesn’t show.

Another smile tugs one corner of his mouth as he watches her settle in beside him. His head tips and lightly touches his brow to the top of head. After a moment, Dev turns his head with a small sigh and pulls the menu closer. His interest in food has waned in favor of the moment, but the cover is flipped open so they both can look at the choices.

If she notes Devon's surprise at her joining him, Emily ignores it in favor of trying to smooth out the tension she'd caused. She intended to ignore transgressions, nerves, everything negative for the sake of having these few moments of solace. He was already bringing her that, his closeness and reassurances bringing rattled nerves down to a more manageable level. The silent, unable-to-be-spoken worry over the 'what if's following his leaving only further sublimates her usual tendency for distance.

It takes Emily a moment to adjust her head so she can skim the menu at a better angle, brow arching at the variety of food listed out in photos. Noodles, 'burgers', salads, rice meals, pizza… she shifts, sitting up a bit straighter. "The hell," she murmurs at it, peering curiously at the options. She stays glued to Devon's side, backs of her fingers brushing against his palm. For this brief moment, the outside world and its worries are entirely forgotten — down to the harebrained hypotheticals.

"Maybe that," she says as he turns the page, nodding at an image of an 'omelette' of egg on rice, covered with beef. "That looks weird enough to eat." Emily even smiles a little at her attempt at humor.

So much for not having an appetite.

“Looks like they've got all their bases covered,” Devon deadpans quietly at the varied selection of food options. There's certainly something for everyone. He scans over the choices without giving much thought to what he might find interesting to eat. His mind drifts to the immediate present, finally allowing himself to relax and set his own worries and fears aside.

A grin forms at Emily’s opinion of the dish she's chosen, and it reminds him to find something as well. He scans the menu again, while folding his fingers with hers. “Guess I'll try that,” he decides after a moment, tapping a finger on an image of what should be noodles mixed with things that could be vegetables. It's possibly in the description, but he isn't checking.

Setting the menu aside, Dev sighs and settles in his seat. His eyes angles to his side, to look at Emily. He could easily wish for more time, or kick himself for wasting time before. Those are things that touch his thoughts very briefly, things that are filed as past choices to learn from.


Emily sits upright, her head lifting off of Devon's shoulder as the bus rattles over a growing rut on the right side of the road. She rides the route often enough now the jostling serves as an indicator that they're nearing her usual stop. The LCD screen near the front of the bus and by the exit door mirror the message shortly after: Next stop: Elmhurst Hospital

Her thin shape still remains curled against Devon, arm snaked around his with fingers laced, her other hand resting on the crook of his arm. The look she gives the outside world as the bus slows while rolling up on the stop is a wary one, defensive and filled with reluctance to end this moment.

Slowly, Emily relents by leaning away, her 'free' hand parting from its perch on his arm to gesture for her bag. He'd insisted on carrying it after they'd left the restaurant, but it was time she had it back.

The bumps and jostling from the uneven road are usually a thing to be ignored, but Devon isn't as familiar with the bus routes and looks over when Emily moves. Grudgingly, his eyes shift from her to the screen displaying the upcoming stop. A long sigh follows, and with it a silent wish for the evening to not have to end.

Shifting slightly, he drops a hand to pull the bag from its place near his feet. He loops the strap around his hand and to lift it and hand it over. “Should be just a few days,” he says. It isn't the first time, but this time he seems to be saying it as much for Emily's reassurances as his own.

"And then you'll go back to annoying me constantly until I pick up the phone to yell at you," is how Emily chooses to reply as she takes her bag, swinging it over her shoulder. No humor is visible in her attempt to lift his spirits — she opts instead to treat it as an inevitability rather than an ideal scenario.

The strap of her bookbag is gripped tightly as she fights down the urge to do more, worry more openly. She looks away, watching the frustrating oxymoron of the world crawling to a stop while time does anything but. A shallow breath is drawn in as she turns back, doing her best to veil her concern. "All in just a few days." she adds with a quiet insistence, her mouth hardening in a forced smile.

“Likely.” A glance follows Devon's answer, a quick look that matches the deadpan in Emily's comment. A slight grin touches his expression after a second, intending to put real humor into the mood since he's already promised to call as soon as he's able. It fades almost as soon as it’s formed when she looks away, and he follows her attention to the world outside the window.

He's slow to stand when the bus comes to a stop, several seconds pass before he pulls himself from the seat and helps Emily to her feet also. Keeping his hand wrapped with hers, he guides the way along the aisle to the door and off the bus. Dev looks first at the hospital, then turns his attention to Em, concern returning though he tries to mask it with another faint grin.

It would be better if Emily knew what to say, but she doesn't. She doesn't — can't — return his smile, but she does nod firmly as a sign of encouragement to him. The cold air is crisp as it works its way back into her lungs, sharply cutting away any warm words that otherwise might have escaped her. Her hand does squeeze his, even though she tries to mentally prepare herself for parting ways.

A look down the block hastens that, even though no one appears to be there should he turn to check. Her fingers loose from his nonetheless, trying to slide away. The walls she normally keeps around her silently begin to be built back up, visible in the distance in her eyes.

Emily clears her throat as she looks back to Devon, brow lifting just a tick. "Elmhurst has an okay number of rideshare cabs around, usually. If you didn't want to walk or wait for the next bus or whatever to get to Jared's."

The words are spoken casually enough, giving no insight into how talking about sending him off claws her insides like she's been mauled.

Nodding absently to the suggestion, Dev flicks a look down the street. He raises a hand and rubs at the back of his neck, on the verge of saying something. But when he feels Emily’s hand slacken he looks at her. He’s familiar enough with that distance and those walls, familiar with deflecting and pretending like they don’t exist, always edging around to avoid confronting his own feelings, and hers.

Tonight he can’t — won’t — leave that distance alone.

“Em…” He reaches for her, taking a hand to cup it around her cheek. “It’ll be okay,” he tells her quietly. Curling his arm around her shoulders, the other slips free to wrap around her back and draw her into a tight hug. He tips his head forward to touch it to hers. “I’m not going to abandon you. I’m coming back.” It’s a promise.

The touch on her cheek stills Emily, her brow starting to knit at him. The tension ripples away into surprise as he assures her everything will be fine, internal walls sliding around like they're made of fickle, wet ice even as she tries to close herself off more quickly than before. Her arms lift but don't close around him in return, too stunned by what he says. For what feels like an eternity, she just stands there.

She accepts the embrace first by not rejecting it. It turns into brushing the side of her head against his whether she means to or not, leaning her cheek into Devon's palm. Her arms slowly lower down on him, loosely settling around his waist. It lacks the firmness of her earlier grip, but her face turns into his and her eyes close.

It's a salve; for the fear, the worry. It makes the tightness in her chest lessen, even as it causes a new kind of ache.

God, she shouldn't do this.

Her brow furrows as she lifts a hand to his, gently pulling his palm from her cheek. Emily lowers both of their arms back down, leaning away just enough to see Devon's eyes clearly when she opens her own again. "Good," she tells him softly, words whispered through shattered walls. "I'm not done being mad at you yet."

If she doesn't go now, she never will.

It takes effort to not squeeze his hand reassuringly as she steps back out of reach, fingers sliding across palm before curling around nothing. Her attention remains on him as she begins to walk away. When she can't easily see him out of the corner of her eye, she looks ahead instead, her stride determined.

Certain, even.

It's just after a dozen steps that she looks back over her shoulder.

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