avi_icon.gif huruma_icon.gif

Also Featuring:

francis_icon.gif scott_icon.gif

Scene Title Kintsugi
Synopsis Broken things can be beautiful.
Date December 7, 2019

The Bunker

West Downtown, Rochester, New York

December 7th

7:12 pm

The day to day of Wolfhound is, at worst, boring as hell. Even with case work it becomes a point of where to go from there, leading to idle time of staring at dossiers or playing basketball with the trash bin across the room while trying to field e-mails. Thoughts tend to wander.

Thanks to the NYPD and the need to get on the same pages with procedure and protocols, there is at least something to be done. Even with the formation of academy courses, they can use all the help with training they can get, right? Not to mention that war heroes are great for morale.

Huruma was there this morning, then her afternoon filled with a lengthy visit to the Benchmark. She's been back at the Bastion since, relegating herself to some paperwork- - for once, maybe she's feeling helpful - - and tapping along to whatever is in her earbuds.

Unsurprisingly, it only lasts as long as it needs to; her work is succinct and professional. In short order she is out in the hall, mentally scoping out her surroundings and allowing her thoughts to wander to recent events, rather than lingering on what she'd been knee deep in.

Huruma's wandering is elusive, taking a break to sneak around and go over - - well, everything. There's been a lot; the more obvious things, and even the lesser. An empath has a key to things that most do not, yet her context is ambiguous. Perhaps that is what draws her idle steps up a level, aimlessness taking her. Perhaps she can also get some answers. Or just - - words.

Laughter, especially Avi’s, is in short supply at times. But when Huruma picks up on that ephemeral sound, its source turns out to be the small kitchen and dining room built into the back of the bastion. “But then, like, I creep up behind him… and he’s there, still looking through his fucking scope, okay? okay?” He can barely get a word out without laughing between them.

“How many beers’d he have?” Scott Harkness’ voice isn’t a common one around the Bastion. Typically he’s keeping the lights on in Rochester, which must mean it’s a supply run week and he’s down for the evening.

Nine,” Avi blurts out with a howl of laughter. “He was so drunk, he thought he was still in the fucking reeds. So there he is, I’m not shitting you, crouched over in his ghilli suit, in broad fucking view of the entire village, pants around his ankles, creeping up on a fucking mule.” The visual Avi paints causes Scott to break out into laughter, doubling over on his stool to drape across the kitchen island, beer in hand.

Avi slaps the countertop, then reaches for his own and takes a sip. “Yeah, right? I mean…” In spite of all the laughter, most of what Huruma feels is sadness from Avi. “I miss him.”

Sounds are easy. She finds the origins with no trouble, no matter where or when. Sounds are just masks anyway.

Scott can see her first. But he is undoubtedly used to it, the way she just appears in the shade of doorframes, eyes out. Huruma, fortunately, doesn't linger in her Slenderman impression for too long. As much as the tale is indeed a hilarious picture of a drunken sniper, her laugh is directed inward. Instead of that sound, it is her steps and the tug of earbuds from her ears accompanied by a tinny, distant snippet of Ann Wilson until she gets hit with pause.

"Evening. Busy as ever, I see."

Scott looks up at the sound of Huruma’s voice, offering her a warm smile. “Just sharing old war stories.” Lifting up his hand not occupied with a beer, Scott conjures forth a swirling lattice of light that soon bends and coalesces into the shape of a beer bottle, dripping with condensation.

“He's like a surly old mini-fridge,” Avi helpfully adds from the end of the kitchen island, hunched against the countertop as he is.

Scott offers the freshly conjured beer out to Huruma. “You're welcome to join in. Epstein was just telling me about some work he and Raith did in South America for the Royals back in his CIA days.” He looks back to Avi, who smiles away discomfort that is blindingly obvious to Huruma without even the need of her ability. Avi exhales a sigh and waves one hand in the air dismissively. Maybe he's done with stories for now.

"They are all old war stories at this point, magic man." Huruma's reply to Scott and his flourishes comes with a note of amusement, as it often does. Magic Man is a better compliment than Mini-Fridge, she'll stand by that. She accepts the offered bottle from Scott with a murmured thank you, sidling around to lean a hip against counter to watch the two a moment.

"Ah, yes, South America, CIA. Always an interesting pair." Given the history, she's understating it. Fingers toy with the prickly bottlecap once it's off, an idle stimulation while Huruma mulls something over. "Doing a lot of reminiscing about the agency these days, hm?"

Kansas City wasn't that long ago.

Unfortunately for Huruma, her seeking to break quiet gives away some of her general disquiet. It's something that isn't in short supply of late.

Avi shrugs a little, looking down for an easier answer in the neck of his beer bottle. It isn’t there. “Reminiscing might be the wrong word I guess. This shit I did for the CIA was fucked up, really.” Avi looks from the bottle over to Scott. “Still, had some good times at least.”

“You made the most of a shit situation,” Scott says, glancing over at Huruma and making space for her in their conversation. “That’s kind of the motto of all life on Earth these days, ain’t it?” Avi snorts out a laugh at that, ruefully shaking his head.

“Guess we’ll never know otherwise,” is Avi’s grim observation of what happened during the Itinerant Dawn’s launch. Scott exhales a sigh through his nose and slowly shakes his head. “Yeah… yeah. Gallows humor is the only coping mechanism I have that doesn’t result in a hangover the next day, and I’m trying to cut back on that… for family,” he adds with a struggle, followed by a side-long look at Huruma. Not a word of that to Emily, it all but implies.

Huruma understates the old job on purpose, because everyone here knows that everyone else has done some fucked up shit. Least of all officially. Still, her eyes narrow with a note of amusement for the rest, moreso for Scott. Making most of shit is indeed the motto of modern life, and the expression says that she agrees.

The stinkeye tilted in her direction gets a very similar look, though it quickly warps to something more exaggerated— brows up, eyes blinking, mouth frowning in astonishment. Offended. An attempt at levity after the mention of the launch. "You're looking at me like I'm going to tell everyone that you wear bunny pajamas."

On a more serious note, she offers some support just after the teasing. "Making good on the fresh liver is probably wise. For family." Maybe not done with it quite yet. Huruma moves away from her spot at the counter to lean onto the kitchen island, conspiratorial. "You can save it for our next arson."

“Fresh liver?” Scott asks, angling a look over at Avi with one brow raised, looking down to the bottle in Avi’s hand and then back up again. Avi in turn waves a hand in Scott’s general direction and leans into the low back of his stool.

“Nat didn’t just fix the eye,” Avi says as if it was nothing and not //miraculous. “The whole bag of bones got a once-over.”

Scott raises his brows, looking down at his own beer bottle. “Is there a signup list? Because my back ain’t what it used to be,” he adds with a laugh. “Or is that family only?” That question elicits a sharp look from Avi, suddenly laser-focused on Scott.

“Fuck off,” is Avi’s flat rebuttal, “with literally all of that.”

It was a joke,” Scott says with his one free hand raising in surrender. “Look, I try not t’get into people’s business but Francis hears things and you know how he is.”

Scott making light is a welcome shift in tone, getting a smirk and sidelong look. Huruma's eyes move while the rest of her is still, mirth for the surrender and mention of gossip. It's worth a quiet laugh. Later she'll probably aside to Scott to skip around Avi if he's serious. Who knows?

"Eaaasy, tiger." One hand moves across the counter, down, down. Huruma's turn to focus on Scott, leaning heavier on the island, a brow rising slowly. "What else has he been keen on repeating? Yes, I know how he is. The little jaybird."

“You know, things about divorces or impending divorces,” Harkness says with a casual raise of his brows, pausing between thoughts to take a sip from his beer. “What you get up to in the kitchen after 2am,” he says with a side-eye to Huruma, “that you were the one who ate Francois’ panini,” he directs at Avi, “and didn’t come forward even when he blamed Lucille for it and she stormed off.” There’s a rise of Scott’s shoulders, a helpless shrug. What can be done?

Avi slides his tongue over his teeth, then against the inside of his cheek as he stares at Scott. “It wasn’t a panini and it was delicious and nobody writes their names on anything,” he admits in a sharply exhaled huff. “Also your son is a lousy spy.” Avi adds with a defensive sharpness to his tone, followed by a swig of his beer.

“Speaking of kids who aren’t dickbags,” Avi says with a look to Huruma, “how’s your family doing after…” he vaguely gestures with his beer bottle, “all that shit?”

Clearly she wasn't counting herself in this rumor mill, because Scott earns a narrow look for his side-eye. It's not his fault, though, that his son is a chatty Cathy.

"I do not do- - What did he say that I get up to- -" Huruma, affronted in the way of passive displeasure, fortunately gets distracted. Lips are pursed when she looks to Avi, and before anything else Huruma quiets herself with the bottle in her hand.

"They've been… faring. No more funny business, thusfar. The girls took some time off. Dajan wasn't pleased with me for some time." The hand holding bottle gestures widely, vaguely, practically a mirror. It's universal. "Now with everything happening on the mainland… the borders are tight. But I think," Huruma allows a note of mirth through. "If anyone does try to pick a fight, they will find themselves at a vast disadvantage."

"But I digress… things remain complicated. They will rise to it, though, I am sure." The lean of elbow atop counter gets a touch heavier, yet a short smile manages to be spared for Avi when she offers an aside. "Lousy spy, good chef."

Francis cooks?” Avi blurts out, as if that somehow is news to him.

“Now who’s the lousy spy?” Harkness says out of the side of his mouth before tipping back his beer and finishing it. His self-satisfied smile is broad by the time he stands up, empty bottle gripped by the neck between calloused fingers.

“Politely eat a dick in hell Scotty,” Avi quickly fires back over the brim of his beer bottle.

“That’s not— ” Scott doesn’t get to finish his thought.

“No, not like that. I’m talking,” Avi hunches forward and pantomimes a knife and fork, “just savoring a raw dick in hell. You know, peeling it like a sausage and— ”

“Somebody cooking sausage?” Francis Harkness asks obtusely as he wanders in from the hall, a bag of takeout from the Nite Owl diner carried under one arm, smelling sweetly of breakfast foods at distinctly non-breakfast hours. “Speaking of, here’s your food,” he says as he strolls up to Huruma, offering her out the bag.

Huruma is stuck watching Scott and Avi for those few vulgar moments, holding in whatever errant thoughts come to mind. Don't say it. Do not. She is looking perplexed over the pantomiming and appears juuust about to say something when Francis inadvertently rescues her. Saved by the bill.

"Well, sounds like someone is an expert." is all that Huruma mutters before turning to take the bag from Francis and pull out a note to pay him back. As you do. She wastes no time in sliding free the food from its confines, nonchalant in the wake of graphic dick-eating. "No cooking, just your two fathers bickering."

“Woah, hey,” Francis says with both hands up in the air, “I’ll cop to one of these two but that one?” He points with his index fingers on both hands to Avi, “Man, don’t do me like that, Huruma.”

Avi barks a laugh and shakes his head. “Okay, alright, this has gotten precisely dumb enough to hit my limit for the day.” He eyes Scott, who’s wheezily laughing and shaking his head. “You gray old mares have fun, I am going to go do some actual fucking work and then, maybe, I don’t know… sleep?”

Scott waves Avi off with his beer-laden hand, looking up to Huruma and manages to wheeze out the word, “expert,” before breaking into another fit of wheezy laughter. Francis watches his father for a long, silent moment, then looks up to Huruma with a deadpan expression.

“Did I…” Francis looks around the room, “miss something?”

"Tch," Francis' attempt to disown Avi is met with a look not unlike an indolent cat that has taken over your chair. At least Scott appreciates her, see? Huruma looks to his wheezy laughter with a twist of mirth on her lips, fingers drumming on her bottle, eyes briefly following Avi on his way out. The owl-eyed look from Francis has Huruma snorting once, pulling her takeout closer and picking it open. Best now when it's warm. "Mm, nothing you haven't heard before."

It's the easygoing way to put it, and it helps divert them into something else.

An Hour Later

By the time Huruma’s done eating her distinctly not-dinner food, the Harknesses have apparently decided to move off to criticizing a River Styx rerun. Huruma gives them attention again once before she sneaks away, though only to remind them to turn the screen off later. Okay, mom.

Despite the gang being a bunch of silly bitches earlier, and ease in her bones, Huruma hasn't quieted her empath's web. She is still listening to the vibrations even as she cleans up and heads back upstairs- - purposefully so. Lurking, as you do.

The Bunker doesn’t have the vivacious energy it once did. There’s just not as many people here at one time, divided between the Bastion in the Safe Zone and here. With Colette gone, Adelle, Noa, Claire, Hana. The list of departures felt longer and longer every year, and every year that Wolfhound got from the end of their commission to hunt down the Institute the less it felt like they were a team and the more it felt like they were something less.

A company.

A business.

That listless energy lingers around Avi’s room, where he had retreated to for the evening with a newspaper and a cup of coffee spiked with liquor. It was a part of his routine, a little coffee and Whiskey, a quiet read, and then bed. It all felt routine, it felt like perhaps it really was over and this was just the wind down before the lights turned off one-by-one.

A grand finale in all minor chords

An interlude in minor later, Huruma is at the door; it's not hard to tell someone is outside, given the atmosphere. Of course she listens before anything else. To the slide of paper and the smell of not-quite-coffee. The boredom, resignation, whatever one wants to call it. Gregarious energy has stayed downstairs with the beer bottles tossed in the recycling bin.

Before Avi does have the chance to address his stalker, however, she raps on the door with her knuckles.

"I have something for you."

It's not foreboding at all.

Huruma can feel the mirth in Avi before he speaks. “Look, if you’re in a lace teddy or something… I’ll have you know that I’m both terrified and,” he opens the door, deadpanning, “mostly just terrified.”

Smirking, Avi slouches against the doorframe and crosses his arms over his chest. “Also Ryans might have one hand but I’m fairly certain he only needs one t’choke the life out of me.” Avi glances down the hall past Huruma, then back again. “What’s up?”

"Mostly?" Huruma meets his deadpan-to-smirk with a raise of her brow, then a smirk of her own. His response itself was clearly entertaining enough rather than an offense, as her voice is bordered by a velvet fringe. "You presume a lot about me being his terrifying wife."

Suffice to say, it's not like that. It's complicated.

"Besides, Avi, I just didn't have the patience to stop and change." Rather than continuing to engage him from the hallway, Huruma slides right past Avi and into his quarters, amused eyes fixed on his face as she goes. She has never been one for personal space, save for her own. It's all very conditional. The conditions are flexible.

"Here." Out from behind her back, Huruma produces- -

A box. It even has a ribbon. It's early, but, "…Merry Christmas, fool."

“Merry what?” Avi blurts out, “It’s Novemb—// fuck// oh my god.” Scrubbing one hand down his face, Avi snatches the box like it was handed to him with some blistering invective. But after that sharp snatch, Huruma can already feel the bubbled up well of anxiety in him. She knows this particular flavor of anxiety perfectly well. It only exists in this moment, at this time of year, in people like this.

He forgot to do any Christmas shopping.

Making a noise in the back of his throat, Avi tentatively plucks at the ribbon and levels a tense look back up at Huruma. “I hope you realize I’m not obligated to get you anything in return,” he tries to say cooly, fully cognizant of the fact that she can see how much of a mess he is behind his fake smile at any given moment. “Unrelated aside,” he says as he starts to carefully undo the ribbon, “if you had to get a Christmas present for someone with, uh, let’s say an ability that’s on the top ten list of fuck fuck fuck goddamnit,” he lets the bow fall aside, then starts tugging at the wrapping, “what would you get that daughter?”

Avi looks up at Huruma, tearing away at the paper. He’s serious. Worse, he’s confiding in her.

Something about this particular reaction gets a small laugh, passive and more friendly than teasing. His anxiety goes unmentioned, though she does cant her head in a subtle acceptance of it. Fake smile and all, fussing with that ribbon.

"I know. No obligation. " Huruma nods just once, but of course she maintains a sense of mischief despite a flicker of seriousness.

"Ah. So that's the kind it is, hmm?" Pale eyes slow blink. Because of course she knows something about it. "Top ten." Huruma's already sculpted features sharpen at the edges, too. She appreciates the confidence, it's clear, as she makes sure to take time to answer. "Lessons. From someone similar, if possible." Her voice is easy, a touch on the soft side. "Depending on type."

"More tangibly… a gun is always perennial. So is cash." Huruma raises a brow at Avi, lips curving into a smile. He did ask.

Speaking of perennial, Avi will recognize the shape he finds inside the box. A coffee mug. One he owned, once. Different, though. 'World's Best Mom', now threaded with veins of a rosy gold, pieced together from a previously shattered state. Once he uncovers it, her expression shifts to mutely expectant.

My mug,” Avi deadpans, staring down at the once-shattered mug now fused back together. “I mean, I stole it from… somebody. Back on Bannerman. I think they’re dead now.” He sets the box aside on the small, round table in the middle of his room and turns the mug over in his hands. “I…” Avi makes a noise in the back of his throat, then looks up to Huruma. “I thought you broke it?” He understands the interstitial moments. The question is more rhetorical. Broken means final to him, all too often. Now, mug in hand, broken means maybe.

Sighing, Avi keeps the mug in one hand, cradled against his palm with the handle wrapped around three of his fingers. “I already got her a gun,” Avi finally exhales the words. But those aren’t the ones caught in the center of his chest. “I…” he flicks a look to the side, then up to Huruma. Nothing comes next, save for Avi maneuvering over to the door to close it.

“Emily manifested,” Avi offers in a hushed voice, as if afraid someone else might overhear him. “I… I don’t know anybody else who could teach her. Everyone I’ve ever known who has her power wound up with a bullet in the middle of their forehead.” He leans away from the door, angling a worried look at Huruma. “It’s persuasion. Just… do what I say persuasion.”

Expectant eyes shade with a quiet satisfaction as Avi processes his question, her answers, the gift that shouldn't be there. They absolutely put it in the trash. They absolutely took it to the dumpster at the end of the block. And yet, here it is.

She says nothing for a time, letting him clue much of it together on his own. He never gets enough credit, although she would always be keen to enlighten him regardless. Everyone knows how she is with words. The lack thereof. It never means that she is without. They are simply different.

Huruma has already been skirting the list of her own top ten while Avi boils up his courage to get the other ball in his chest out. Mosaics at the top. Telepaths. Regenerators. Empaths. Teleporation. Space-time. Negation. Amplification… Avi unknowingly says the next one on her mental list, even though she wasn't finished. Her brows still lift up and drop down immediately. A look towards the closed door brings no reaction, which means there are no ears to worry about. She would stop him otherwise.

"She pulled me aside some weeks ago." Huruma starts, a softer-voiced preface. "I knew better than to think she was asking 'for a friend'. Asking me questions about my own gift. How I learned to use it, as it was not such a tangible one. She did not say much else… but I can always tell when people want to." It may be a subtle dig; the baseline being he doesn't need to worry about hiding things from her.

"I told her a few things… I eventually did find a teacher." A small sigh moves through the dark woman, indistinct. "She'll need one…" Huruma's eyes shift from past Avi's shoulder back to his face.

"You are right to be fearful." One of her hands lifts and alights atop his hand around the mug. Tentative, as her words are truthful but confirming. At least he's not alone in his thinking. Not Paranoid.

"On her side are people that understand that- - and the fact that she has a good heart, despite her shrewdness."

She understands the reality, however. That Emily's newest quality will be dangerous- - even if she is inherently good.

Eyes down on the mug, still turning it over in his hands, Avi grumbles “I put her with the government. That fucking internship.” He looks up to Huruma, warily. “Minute one they find out what she can do, they're— it's gonna start.” Avi sets the mug down in the small, document-shrouded table in the middle of his room and runs both hands through his hair. “The grooming, the preening, telling her she's special, how much she could do for her country.”

Avi’s hands come down from his hair and swing idly at his side. “It doesn't matter how smart she is, everyone has a pressure point. I— it's what I did when I wasn't shooting people in the face. I was turning people against their own government, starting coups, making people believe the worst lies were truths. One way or another they’ll turn her, and then they’ll use her to…” he spreads his hands as Huruma feels that knot of anxiety tightening again. “Fucking world peace at gunpoint or whatever the fuck colonial bullshit smells good on paper.”

It isn't like Avi is ignorant to how paranoid he sounds. It's written on his face and in his emotions. Both plain for Huruma to see, as are the cracks in his reasoning as obvious as the gold-inlaid kintsugi that repaired his mug. “I don't have a very large list of people I'd trust to teach her,” is his way of not asking Huruma but also asking Huruma.

He would absolutely know better than anyone what could be lying ahead for his daughter. Huruma is quiet as he runs down the list of what he did in his CIA days. She already knows, more or less, though she allows the venting for his sake. It is not something she wants Emily to be drawn into either, judging from the firm expression which goes from brow to jaw, shoulders back and eyes in shade.

'For the better', they'll say. Under one flag. Sacrifices are to be expected. Martyrs happen. Avi's tangle is like a burr against her empathic field; it is condensing itself to the room as it catches the prickly velcro. All he sees is the tightening of her mouth at one side as she tries to dislodge it. It's not all his, because it's not helping her own. Dictionary definition of empathy. They both worry, now.

"Nyamaza," Sounds like a 'shush'. Vexation at the entire thing and her own mental feedback wins this round; Huruma's pupils deepen and her hands come up against the sides of his head as if she might be able to push the sound of Avi's anxiety back in. It ends up only a gesture to try and ground him; there's no hint or sensation of a shift in thinking, or feeling. Not yet, in any case. "Distress is such a distracting commotion." Huruma states it as an insight, a visual of what she 'sees'. "Aie, All you need is to ask for my help, Avi."

“Yeah,” sounds a lot like no when it comes from Avi in a sigh. Scrubbing a hand at the back of his neck he looks at the door, then over to Huruma. “Things’re complicated with her, she… made me promise not to tell anyone else. Which clearly I'm fuck-all of good at. But I feel like if I don't ask someone for something I'm just going to fuck this up.”

It's an Epstein prerogative.

“You can say no,” is how Avi asks Huruma. It's the closest he's ever going to get and she knows it. “I never in a million fucking years thought after Madagascar that we’d wind up— fuck, I don't know— fucking friends. So this is still a little surreal for me, even after all these years. I just… yeah.” Avi paces around that table. “She needs someone that isn't me to be there for her. For this.”

Her hands briefly rest on his shoulders before they fall away, amidst all of his torn words over telling her. Huruma knows that the communication thing for him is difficult in the first place- - and this is his girl, isn't it? Stands to reason it would be even harder for him to contain this now. A sigh moves through her again, and at his further words her browline is rising and falling, then a cock of her head. For a few moments she seems uncharacteristically unsure.

"…Maybe that's just it. How we've managed to become. Surreal or not, we are. Something." Huruma allows the affirmation to linger between here and there. Her voice is subdued, word's edges softened; she watches him pace, the ink of her eyes trailing after. She takes a step nearer, willfully private despite the closed door. "I know that I can say no. You know that I won't. You're trusting me to say yes."

Or he wouldn't have trusted her with it in the first place.

“I guess,” is the Epstein word for yes whenever he’s admitting he might have been in the wrong. “Look, just… things are frayed with Emily and I. I don’t think she… really respects me, which— I mean that’s fair. Who the fuck would on a long enough timeline. But I just… I don’t know, I feel like if she knows I was even remotely involved in this she wouldn’t want it. Out of spite or— better judgment.”

Avi scrubs a hand against his forehead, then sits down in the old chair beside his table. “Just pretend you always knew, flash her a smile when she asks. You know, creepy Huruma knows everything kind of non-answer.” There’s a tongue-in-cheek tone there. But Avi doesn’t smile.

Looking down to the mug on the table, Avi reaches out and takes it in his hand again, cradling it in his lap as he hunches forward. “This isn’t what I expected I’d be doing at sixty-five.”

Fluency in Epstein is going to come in handy with Emily, too. Of course he's right about the smiling. The non-answers she loves. He's also right about the possibility that his daughter would reject the help, too, if she knew he was a part of it.

"I can do that." She gives her assent first, still save for the dilation of pupils under hooded eyes. Unseen by him is the sea of touch from her mind, as casually present as ever. While Huruma does not deafen her senses entirely, it coils around the room. She may be unreadable at times, but not always. He earns her understanding, and a curious look of deliberation.

"If I might…" Huruma's brow arches as she moves around the back of his chair, a study which ends in a lean against the table beside him. "Kintsugi makes a show of scars. Because they are something that completes who we are. They make us whole. Not the same, just… more. Disguising them only hurts us. I didn't see that for a long time." Dark face turns to look at him, the mug, its new veins.

"You know what I see when I look at you. Your scars aren't hidden from me, at least." Unnerving? Maybe. Affirming? Maybe. Empathy? Absolutely. Huruma's voice lowers some, the velvet rolling back in.

"Neither are your troubles. You fool others into thinking you don't care, or it's no big deal. They see what you want them to. We're more alike than you think." Avi may be healed but there's more to it than a new eye and a vanishing limp. "Diversions don't come easy, either. The mind always moving." She reaches out with a hand and plinks the coffee cup he was already drinking from. "I can give you a reprieve…"

Avi makes a noise in the back of his throat, followed by a glip, “What and show up the mug? That seems rude.” He looks up to Huruma after that, setting the mug back on the table. “You remind me of this kid I used to know in grade school,” he says out of the blue. “Read a lot, really into books. I used to push him into puddles.” He rolls his shoulders. “Anyway, this kid, I saw him in the library one day picking out a new book and — you know what he did? Little shit flipped to the last page and read the ending, then checked it out and read it cover to cover.”

Snorting, Avi settles back in his chair. “You’re somebody who reads the back page before reading the rest of the book,” is delivered with frustrating neutrality, even if inside she can see the good natured smugness. “Look, I… appreciate the gesture. But, like you said, the scars make us who we are right?”

Avi looks over at the mug, then back to Huruma. “If I were a mug, I’d be mostly gold through and through now.”

"The back page holds the most." This is all Huruma has to really say when it comes to her reading people as she might a book. Perhaps he sees it as cheating, and maybe it is, but she also fails to see much relativity between herself and a schoolboy. The last words have her giving a small hum, thoughtful. It's the same sing-song sound she makes when she's up to something and not bothering to mask it. "Oh, I know…"

"See," Huruma's voice lifts, and there is a sense of warmth is in her words and in the weight of her hand at his back. Fingers collect gently up along the nape of his neck. "If there's one thing books have taught me," She leans closer, as if divulging conspiracies; pale eyes shade under half-lids, a smile tugging at her lips, a laugh sounding in her chest. "It's that wars are fought over gold." Conspiracy disappears when the real world comes rushing back, shaped as an emphatic kiss.

Avi’s reaction is first a sharp exhale of breath through his nose, then a slow flutter of his eyes shut and a hand coming to rest on Huruma's shoulder. But she can feel what's coming next before the words escape his mouth, before he even lines them up in his head. She can feel the greasy and unabashed sensations of shame, guilt, and inward-directed revulsion that turns to anger and frustration a heartbeat before, “Huruma, no,” escapes him.

That hand on Huruma’s shoulder turns into a gentle push back, and the tumult of what Avi is feeling congeals into a thick and heavy paste of depression and anxiety atop which the still-molten fat of anger bubbles with liquidity. Avi swallows, dryly, and wipes a hand at his face and angles himself to extricate himself from his chair, distancing himself a few paces from Huruma as he paws at the side of his face. This doesn't feel so much like it has anything to do with her, but everything to do with himself.

“I can't,” Avi shakily exhales, unable to make anything more than fleeting eye contact with her. “You're a subordinate,” is a bald-faced lie of an excuse and he knows that she knows it, but that's his story and he's sticking to it. “I— I need to— we should…” No glibness or quick words from him, just decades of interwoven hurt.

Now those cracks are visible and gold too.

Once the inward vacuum of those emotions start, they do not seem ready to stop. It's not cloying, only heavy, like wading through sand. Still, the hand against her shoulder is enough of a prompt, and she fixes him with a calm stare when he abandons his seat, one hand resting at the back, still leant forward. Huruma knows exactly how to navigate the dunes in Avi's head, though of course there is no more than a mutual awareness. The empath treks, and he feels nothing change. As always, however, Avi does feel that encircling notion- - she can see his words for what they are.

Deep irises in pale eyes lack offense, and Huruma's frame straightens out in a languid adjustment. For all of his apprehension and collapsing star of negative emotions, she harbors no fiery reaction; rather, water, rippled with a disturbance, already settling under gravity.

Body language says as much as it ought to; not her choice now, but one she will respect either way.

"We've been through fire and flame." The empath steps out from around the table, though she does not approach him. Her words cut right past his use of 'subordinate' with a comforting truth. "Come out the other side." Singed, but whole. Repaired, veins of gold and ceramic. As friends, more unspoken.

"You may be all the things that you think you are- -" Huruma muses softly in her usual smooth voice, eyes narrowed in careful contemplation. She takes a small step closer, brow knitted, "As your friend," She emphasizes this with a raise of brows, moving past obvious lapses in her own self-control and reminding him. "I hope you can someday see the better parts." They are, after all, a part of him too. "I could always show you," She raises a hand to tap a finger to her temple. A different gesture for help this time.

"But likely not today. I've done enough." Her manner isn't one of someone smitten, or sullen. It's not like that. It is much simpler. Reading her without aid is usually harder than than it is right now. Fondness at her base. Solitude getting to her. The simple need to be wanted, perhaps. Certainly a note of trepidation.

"I can go…" Huruma's words are as much of a question as they are a calm response to his defensiveness.

“Yeah,” is Avi’s inadequate, monosyllabic response to everything Huruma had to say. She can sense the subtle rift, wonder if it forms like that every time someone tries to get close, suspects it does. Avi’s eyes flick down to the mug, then back up to Huruma. “That’s… I’ve got some paperwork to do.” He doesn’t.

“Thanks for the mug,” Avi manages to say, tense and awkward.

“Merry Christmas.”

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