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Scene Title 名前
Synopsis Asi and Elliot are emotionally waylaid while enjoying an unusually warm day out, requiring Wright's mediating assistance to be called in.
Date March 30, 2021

Sheepshead Bay

March 26

Ungodly unseasonable weather has struck New York City— a whopping 80 degrees in March. Asi would complain, but there's something to be said for being able to be out of doors without a coat on in the early days of Spring. No matter how unexpected, she'll take it, and she'll likewise recruit whoever she can to enjoy this pleasant break from the continuously less-pleasantly changing norm. No matter how brief it may be.

At any rate, it's Elliot who she's snared onto this adventure, partly because previously she'd promised to take him to one of her favorite places to eat, in exchange for being exposed to some of his favored tastes— and partly because he was already physically nearby following their morning shift on standby at the NYPD. A follow-up trip directly into Yamagato Park was less-comfortably on the table since the change in power dynamic in that area of town, but there were several spots just beyond the high-tech borders that suited her just fine— reminded her of tentpole 'restaurants' Genki used to drag her to. In many ways they were the same; older-if-not-temporary structures lit at night by the metaphorically-distant ever-present neon.

It hadn't been five-star cuisine, but it had been freshly made, and the dumplings taken to go were sure to be just as good as the food at the stand.

"I can't say I've ever had curry at a pop up restaurant, at least until today," she admits, one hand over her stomach. The need to walk it off was strong after that meal. "But that was surprisingly good." The hoodie she'd left the Bastion with this morning is tied around her waist, arms bared past the lengths of the grey tee she wears. Each step through the reclaimed streets bearing unlit string lighting overhead is an interesting one for her— the reclamation and redecoration of this space since her initial time in New York in 2019 ever-surprising.

Ahead, cleared buildings provide the plaza space for one of the semi-famous shipping container shopping sites. She squints at it, suspect of its feeling of gentrification, but doesn't move to break away down a different street. Window-shopping won't support the endeavors of the people running the outlets more fashionable than the at-once more homey and more industrial Red Hook Market, but it wouldn't hurt, either.

Besides: "Perhaps they will have something nice for Ames?" It's a legitimate justification, in her eyes.

Elliot is also well fed and fighting a world having suddenly betrayed him. He carries a bright blue hoodie out of spite more than anything at this point, clutching it in one hand, occasionally throwing it over his shoulder. “I had some home-made curry in the Zone when it was still basically the wild west,” he admits, “Not exactly pop-up but we were still cooking over improvised barrel ovens back then so it was close. Also surprisingly good.” The actual memory of the curry is BLACK BLACK BLACK and never gets near the surface, never offered for sharing. (Not that kind of here for)

“I’m careful about getting things for Ames,” he says in a wary, unserious way. “She recently started realizing that behavior in the present can result in rewards in the future and frankly she’s become unmanageably cute.” His head bobbles back and forth as he weighs the pros and cons. “I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to dote on her a bit. She’s been particularly adorable lately, the wretch.” He turns that way, strolling comfortably into whatever shade he can find to support the illusion of comfort.

"Ah," Asi regards him verbally with wryness, a glint of mirth in her eyes as she glances surreptitiously at him. "Excellent. If she's deserving of it, then all the more reason to reward it. Positive reinforcement."

It feels like odd talk coming from her, but she might be the only one feeling that way. Her ability to empathize or interact with children has always been… lacking. But doting through gifts is manageable. Ames, as the daughter of a teammate, deserves that much.

They pass through the shade of an overhang, and then are left again under the merciless sun to begin passing through the plaza of shipping containers. Two further down have a canvas roof spread between them, and she makes plans to windowshop in that direction. Jewelry, knitwear, and trinkets seem to make up the initial stalls they pass, so Asi doesn't bother with a deeper look. She's driven partly by Elliot's clear discomfort with the heat, for all her easy pace.

It seems, though, that the shaded space is occupied, too, and might not be as great a place to loiter as she thought. With an upward tic of an eyebrow, she notes the setup of what looks like a children's playring, opaque wire-framed nylon making up walls several feet high. Her nose twists, a mixture of disappointment and aversion impossible to ignore on her emotional palette. She sighs and slows her walk, turning to look better at a stall she'd hardly glanced at.

"But is there anything around here worthwhile for a girl her age…" Asi wonders aloud in a murmur.

“Wright was just saying something about picking up a child-size laundry sack,” Elliot says, shading his eyes with his hand. “Something discrete, folds up easily into a purse. Just for the occasional violation of the Behavior in Public Truce.”

His eyes move quickly through the storefronts, caught for a moment in Wright's memory of claiming a pendant necklace from a ruin ages past. His pace slows just a step as he considers getting something for Rue, in an absolutely not an invitation to be wed capacity, but she's already on mission. There's no rush. They've said their goodbyes.

He follows Asi's attention to the child play area, but doesn't think Ames could be contained in such an apparatus. "She's an artist," he explains. "Actually kind of amazing for a five year old, weird understanding of physical spaces and a hater of outlines. What are you looking for? For you, not for Ames, she'll understand if you don't get her anything. Jesus Christ it's hot."

Asi has to choke back a laugh, ungracefully, at the mention of a pillowsack for dragging an unruly child about in. It's so far removed from her own experience, which she finds herself reflecting on— revealing. Demure quiet, listening and seeing without being seen. Fidgeting forbidden, daydreaming prohibited. Glimpses of trees outside and longing to be among them— climbing them later, when finally left to her own devices. Her sister's laughter outdoors, juxtaposed with a surreptitiously stuck-out tongue while they practice their writing at a table seated across each other. She's pulled out of her reverie by Elliot's outburst, turning back.

"Wait, she's only five?" Astonished, she blinks hard while looking down at a mat woven from upcycled materials, turning to him by her side. That didn't sound right, but she also isn't of the mind to go shaking Wright by the shoulder to correct him. It's definitely a topic that can hold. Instead, she sighs. "I'm not looking for anything. Just window-shopping." She resists a frown, lips pursing when he complains of the heat.

"Come on, then, you big baby," she indicates to him, reaching out to haul him toward the shaded overhang with a tug to his elbow. "I'll call a Pryr for us."

Nearer they go to the baby pen and the woman standing beside it. She has a handheld fan and a poorly concealed smirk over it at the two of them, but she steps aside to indicate there's room enough for all of them over here. Her hair shifts in the breeze, curls wafting in the air. "Don't mind us. Or do. I'm sure they'd love to meet you."

It's then Asi catches sight of what's actually in the pen— puppies. More than a litter's worth, spanning colors and breeds. A sign leans against a side of the pen they hadn't seen before, advertising that they're from a rescue trying to find them homes. "I'm Rosario," the woman fanning herself says, and Asi's eyes snap to her briefly, mid-shying away from the pen. "Let me know if you've got any questions, okay?"

Elliot remembers along with Asi with the respect that sharing a personal memory is due. He smiles as it ends, feeling the nostalgia along with the remembrance.

“It’s not really the heat that’s the problem,” he clarifies by way of continuing to complain about it. “It’s just that I’m just so naturally unfit for survival outdoors. I’m an indoors guy. Computers, cooking, witty repartee.” He even exercises, at long last, at an indoor pool.

He nods in thanks for the offer of a moment’s respite in the shade. Rosario’s offer to answer questions gets a polite smile. He intends to not have any questions, assuming whatever she’s selling isn’t something he needs on this aimless wander, but he does a double-take as his brain finally registers the assortment of puppies. “Huh,” he says.

Asi's eyes flicker between the pups as well, uncertain. Her phone screen dims because she's still peering at them. "You're not making your case here, Hitchens," she informs him offhandedly, her voice dipping slightly for her distraction. Okay, Asi, time to call the rideshare.

But her footsteps take her toward the pen, and she drops to a crouch, phone lain aside and to-go bag settled on the ground. Bumbling puppies mawing in play at each other tumble around, some ignoring her, others keying in on human!— or maybe !!food!!— and padding over right away. A shock of breath leaves her in something approximating a laugh, and she offers her hand forward for them to sniff or nip at. "Hey," she murmurs when one does the latter. "ダメよ," she warns, grabbing one by the maw and shaking lightly to discourage it. "だめだめ."

The black and white pup goes sprawling back from the jostling, legs kicking as it expects further play. Instead, Asi finds her hand occupied by the snout of another pup, biteless. A pale pup, labrador-looking, peers up at Asi.

Its blue eyes take her off-guard, and she finds herself looking back. After that moment of connection, the lab rolls its head into her palm deeper and sniffs her hand. Right before it, too, gnaws at the side of her palm.

"You are a troublemaker," Asi pronounces with a mirthful scoff. Despite that, she only seems endeared. "Get my trust, then stab me in the back. You're terrible."

Rosario lets on she's been keenly minding them by wondering, "You want to hold one?" Her fan snaps shut and she tucks it into her belt, reaching for a clipboard on a metal chair beside the pen. "Just a bit of information, standard procedure stuff to make sure you're not going to run off with one of them, and—"

Impulsively, Asi produces her Wolfhound badge from her pocket, her name plain upon it, and tosses it up to Rosario. Despite not expecting it, she catches the ID and arches an eyebrow in amusement. She can see the quiet, stubborn attachment already forming plainly even if Asi might try to deny it.

For her part, the former technopath resumes reaching into the pen to pet the puppies, this time with both hands. Her phone continues to rest on the ground beside her. Rather than try to impress upon Elliot the cuteness of the rascals, because he can plainly see it if he's not blind, she reaches across the network to silently tug at Wright's attention for her to see for herself.

Elliot is caught off guard by Asi’s sudden investment in the puppies, so much so that he is carried away by her feelings about them before noticing they’re not his own. He clears his throat, chuckling as Rosario snags Asi’s badge out of the air. “Being Wolfhound probably makes us more suited than most to dog ownership,” he says in a weird apology. “Or at least dog viewership.”

Wright’s attention at first is lethargic, then suddenly alert, as she takes Asi’s point of view, then simultaneously Elliot’s. “Elliot you have two hands,” she snaps, “This is a four-hands operation. Don’t make me come down there.” She hums in a satisfied way as she feels the creatures currently exploring Asi’s hands. “That’s a good one. The ones that make you think you can trust them are the best.”

Elliot doesn’t immediately satisfy Wright’s demands, instead taking up the offered clipboard to scribble down a few particulars out of courtesy. Trading it for Asi’s badge, he kneels beside the pen. After a second of viewing the tussle of dogs he swings his legs in to sit cross-legged. Since Wright started it, he streams Asi’s point of view for fun. His own movements to interact with the dogs are more reserved, allowing to sniff but not yet allowing for more rambunctious behavior.

"The best, huh?" Asi murmurs, wondering at Wright's advice. She refocuses on the blue-eyed pup, who stays enamored with her even as others leave her over the !!exciting event!! made up of Elliot's arrival into their space. Her brow knits as the lab mix begins to paw at the thin walls to try and climb to her.

Rosario, for her part, is chuckling at them over their behaviors. She sets aside the clipboard again with the formalities out of the way, arms folding as she looks over Elliot's predicament, swarmed by no less than three puppies. "You know, I don't think any of these guys are wolfhounds, but they might be Wolfhound material. I know they'd love a good home. Shelters aren't where little angels like these should grow up, no sir." She's in on it now too, crouching to make an endeared scrunch of face at a pudgy little terrier mutt that's come to wag its tail at her.

Asi's coming back to a stand with the pale lab pooled in her arms, one of its paws against her chest. Her eyes have gone unmistakably soft if distant, focused on the softness of the dog's fur. She's like to have sheddings all over her shirt, but it is literally the last thought on her mind with how she sinks into the comfort of the animal's presence. "We can't have a dog, El," she chastises him in a stage whisper for insisting they'd be great dog people. "Just think about how often everyone's in and out."

As much as she might not want to admit it, her emotional compass has found a new north though, and powerfully. The blue-eyed puppy lifts its head to peer at her for a moment before tucking to the side to rest against her shoulder more comfortably.

There's an invisible sound of her resolve cracking. "Wright, help—" Asi asks for support without caring for any odd looks the shelter volunteer might have for them over it. "Help me out here."

“I bet if you brought a puppy to the Bastion, Avi would immediately vow to kill anybody who makes it sad,” Elliot muses. He feels Asi’s resolve breaking as though it’s his own before noticing and clearing his throat. He leans back from the puppies for a moment for some emotional distance. The OEI obviously isn’t going to let anyone bring a pet to the Root with them.

“Yeah,” Wright agrees, humming happily at the sensation of holding Asi’s puppy. “Ask her what kind of donation we’re talking about. These babies aren’t free. Also, don’t forget to give that snoot a boop test. Don’t want to bring it home only to find out the snoot can’t hold up to regular booping.” Elliot smirks and laughs voicelessly, backing Wright’s ploy—to suggest Asi get the puppy—through inaction.

Oh no. They're all so convincing. Fuck.

"You two are awful," the former technopath balks. Asi is of sound enough mind to realize she's emotionally compromised, but neither is she of the power to do anything about it. She lifts one hand to scritch around the lab's maw, and maybe lightly boops its nose. She'll lie through her teeth if confronted.

"Ma'am," she asks as she turns to the volunteer, who immediately counters—

"Please, call me Rosario."

"Right," Asi concedes, but doesn't repeat. "So, say one of these guys do look like Wolfhound material. What do we…?"

Rosario smiles. "Well, there's an application you'll fill out, and an adoption fee to process. A hundred and fifty brings you home a vaccinated pup, spayed or neutered…"

But Asi isn't listening entirely. She thinks the pup is enough, and she's heard the details. Everything else is a blur she nods through, arms wrapped around the puppy. She takes one of its paws in her hands, feeling the soft pads of its toes before feeling teeth on the backs of her knuckles. She tunes in again at the question, "Is this the fellow you're looking into taking home?"

Asi nods, still partly dissociated but present enough to indicate, "Yes, this one." She feigns at being more here than she is by squinting at Elliot and accusing him with wry humor, "This is your fault." Possibly Wright's too.

“I think we can both agree that this is Wright’s fault,” Elliot says. He makes eye contact with Rosario for a moment, touching his ear to say On the phone. As though either of them are wearing an earpiece.

“Rude!” Wright explaims, losing her focus and letting the requested boop go without comment.

Elliot has a track on which emotions are his, but he lets himself experience the complex shades of Asi’s emotions. He can’t help but think a puppy might actually help with Asi’s understandable disposition relating to the chaos of her life. He then reminds himself that this is very sudden, and provides Asi a chance to reevaluate what Wright isn’t game to. “Puppy adorablility aside,” he says softly, “We did just wander over here for shade. Jesus Christ, Wright.”

“What?” Wright says, opening a handful of tabs in an internet browser to cover the basics of the immediate needs of a puppy. Food, bedding, a banana costume. “Somebody has to think of these things.”

Rosario, without missing a beat, lets out an understanding "ah" with an affect of knowing. If she notes she doesn't see any earpieces, she's smooth enough to keep it to herself. She flips open her fan for a moment to give herself a moment to think while she looks over Asi's state of being enamored. She's making a decision of her own, here. "Well…" she decides, throwing her chips in the direction of expected behavior, after all. "If you have a few minutes now, we can talk this through in a bit more detail."

Not letting go of the puppy, and blessedly not paying attention to Wright's feed long enough to note her more recreational searches, Asi turns her head back in Elliot's direction again. Her eyes widen slightly. "Don't you dare go anywhere," she threatens, but it's more like a plea. She's in over her head, surely, and needs that emotional support from them both. This is going out on a limb for her in more ways than one.

This kind of vulnerability isn't something she likes manifesting, and here she was investing in it. But, stranger things have happened.

Four days and nearly forty degrees later

The Bastion

"さむっ1," Asi complains to herself quietly. She furrows her brow as she looks down at her feet, standing on the Bastion rooftop. She flicks away the embers off her cigarette, then takes an anxious final pull that burns it down further to give her something to properly snuff out in the ashtray under the constructed overhang built for outdoor lounging in better weather. Her breath billows into the air between the smoke and the temperature, and she looks out across the skyline for just a moment.

There were warmer things to return to inside— away from the thoughts she often slips into when she's left to her own devices.

She pushes the door open inside, drifts through the moments it takes to get back down to her quarters, and makes a scene of slowly turning the handle and beginning to push the door in. Her head goes in nose-first, practically, her toe blocking the doorway— just in case. "Sorry," she says earnestly. "Tried to make it as quick as possible. Get some quality bonding time in while I was gone, Wright?"

The puppy's been here only a little over an hour and already she's had to excuse herself to quietly question her sanity. She'd proofed the room what she thought was surely an acceptable amount, but he'd immediately found things to chew on she hadn't even known existed. It was clear despite his cuddling and leaning against her during their first meeting, he had energy now. That was just puppies apparently, a thing they did. Like small children, they were a seemingly boundless well of energy— until it ran out.

She's never liked black-box solutions, and she hasn't gotten a read on what it's like to have a pet yet. This is going to be a rollercoaster, for sure.

"I'm still not sure on a name," Asi admits when she closes the door behind her and begins to crouch. "I was thinking about Kuro, but that feels a bit on the nose."

It's not on the nose, Asi. It's the exact opposite color he is.

“I am still in the middle of QA review,” Wright says, hands busy at play until the puppy is distracted by Asi’s arrival. “So far so good, but he might be too soft.”

There’s a flicker in Asi’s mind as Wright reaches for her language reflexively. “Ironic names are always great,” she says. “When we were kids Elliot was convinced he was going to get a dog and name it Two. Not ironic really, unrelated mostly. He had a game of giving people points, and taking them away for bad behavior.” There’s a strong feeling of nostalgia as she recalls.

“Why Two?” she asks, slowly kicking up speed on the swing and kicking up shovelfuls of playground mulch with her feet.

“Because I’m going to give him ten points for being good,” Elliot explains, as though that should make everything clearer.

“I don’t get it.”

“I don’t know why I think of that terrible joke so often,” she laughs. “Anyway there really aren’t bad dog names. Ames suggested Hamburger Helper, which, I don’t know where she even heard of that.”

"Because it's a Great American Staple," Asi answers in an innocent balk, mirth gleaming in her eye. The unnamed pup scrabbles back to her, butt in air, head down while his tail wags. He barks at her to demand attention, a sharp little thing commanding it. She winces one eye shut and reaches out to ruffle his head.

Streaming Wright's interaction with him had helped boost her own confidence in interactions, but it'd take her a while to build up their dynamic. She snorts in amusement as she thinks on Elliot's logic. "Apparently he gets negative points for being an annoying, grease-slicked vacuum cleaner who gets into what he shouldn't. How practical of Elliot to have known and decided this in advance." She makes sure to tap him so he knows her thoughts on the matter.

"In either case I should name him and make it clear and loudly known before some of his other sitters get him better used to nicknames." She musters a small grin for that, wondering what the likes of her Wolfhound mates might call him. "With my luck, they'll start calling him ON1-2."

"You're right, though," Asi says to an idea Wright hasn't spoken at all, one inferred by the pull for information. "I should pick a name that's easy to remember for others. Something American, maybe."

She scoops up the puppy and hoists him above her head, smiling up at him without reserve. His little body sags, strung up like baby Simba presented to the world, but his tail wags. "I feel like if we went for something like Trouble, we'd be dooming ourselves." Asi lowers the dog slowly closer to her and lets out a small laugh as her face is instantly washed in puppy kisses. "I've heard short names are best, though."

Eyes narrowing thoughtfully as she sets the pup down in her lap and leans back to avoid a snout in her mouth as the puppy continues attempting licks, she suggests, "Or, maybe we lean into it. Put up a poll asking the group what he should be named." She arches an eyebrow mischievously. "Get them all emotionally invested early."

Then she's looking down when her chin is accidentally nibbled on. "Ow." The statement is pronounced and loud, making sure he knows don't do that.

“Oh my god no,” Wright says in feigned alarm. “Can you fucking imagine what Francis would pick for a name? And he’d refuse to ever acknowledge anything else.” She cuts at the air with one hand to demonstrate the severity of her position on this. “Gotta go in strong. Pronounce the name and slap out anyone who argues for something else.”

She leans back against the side of the bed, chuckling. “You could always go for something that sounds like SAE that has an entirely different meaning in Japanese,” she says. “If there are those types of words. There’s way too many to sort through without perspective.” Doesn’t stop her from trying obvious phoneme combinations in Asi’s brain. Her mouth moves through a series of failed attempts as she looks through the wall, attention not on her own perspective.

It's Asi's turn now to go gently pulling language-related information from Wright, letting out a quiet laugh at the simplicity of the answer. The brainstorming that begins a moment later brings her to hmm and pat the puppy's head, who decides he wants to see if he can find anything else to chew on on the ground.

She tenses only a moment in pre-emptive stress, then lets it go.

"How about アイス?" Asi wonders. "It sounds like ice, like his eyes, when it means ice cream, which is a nod at his vanilla ice cream color. Bonus points, it's a name almost like Hamburger Helper, in a sense." Her nose wrinkles before she suggests, "Or サイダー like cider, if we're still matching colors. I draw the line at ジュース. I don't even like soda."

“Okay,” Wright says, laughing through a seriousness she can’t fully muster, “Don’t ever let Ames think she picked your puppy’s name.” She cuts a harder line in the air, then again to impress upon Asi the seriousness of the demand.

“Tiny Baby Ames is already too conceited, too powerful.” she bends forward to scratch at the puppy’s back while Asi holds him aloft.

“アイス is good,” she continues, her mouth not fitting the words quite right, but leaps and bounds better than if she’d tried even a month ago; practice makes perfect. “Elliot is demanding タキシード仮面 but I will not encourage him in this, and neither should you.” She scratches just above the puppy’s tail, still held aloft.

"断り," Asi pronounces imperiously, sounding disapproving of the suggestion. And duly so, given the warning to let no one else dare name her puppy for her. Right?

"I can't believe I'm seriously considering him アイス, but it does appear to be the front-runner." She scritches her nails over the office carpeting in her room. "アイス," she singsongs. "こちに来い." After the puppy doesn't respond in the middle of his sniffing adventure at the foot of her bed, she sighs. "It'll take some treats before it sticks."

“ハンバーガーヘルパー?” Wright tries, obviously not as hard as she could have. Obviously for her own amusement as she butchers Asi’s language. A ripple of a laugh moves through the network.

“Holy shit,” Elliot says, tagging Asi’s attention to make sure this reprimand isn’t wasted on Wright alone. “Never again. Speaking is forbidden.”

“Horsefucker!” Wright exclaims. She turns to meet the puppy’s eyes. “Not you, ハンバーガーヘルパー, we’re cool.” She reassures the puppy by sweeping him off his legs, placing him on his back, swiping him around the carpet before tickling his belly.

“Jesus Christ, yeah,” she says, freeing one hand to point at the puppy. “Look how fucking soft this belly is. Illegal.”

"I thought you just said don't let Ames name the dog!" Asi laughs more than protests, her voice climbing octaves. She leans back against the door with a thud, her hand colliding with her knee in an unintentional slap as she tilts her head back to enjoy the moment for all its absurdity. It devolves into snorts of follow-up laughter, stifles that become sounds whether she wants them to or not.

And she doesn't fight it. In fact, she looks better than she has in weeks. Not… great, by any means, but no longer emotionally cut off from herself and everything around her after the news regarding her state of humanity.

"Yeah," she murmurs in agreement to Wright, a smile present only in her eyes as she watches the other Wolfhound interact with the pup who tries to chase the offending hand with his teeth in a woefully unsuccessful gambit. "He's pretty fucking cute, isn't he?"

She waits a beat, then lifts her eyes back to Wright. "Want to go introduce him to everyone?"

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