Normal Enough


emily4_icon.gif finch_icon.gif roxie_icon.gif

Scene Title Normal Enough
Synopsis Roxie stops by Emily's bearing a concern that she might not be normal.
Date January 15, 2020

Goober!” Emily hisses as the dog takes off between her legs, claws scratching on painted hardwood as he takes off after the cat he’s witnessed in the hall behind her. God, that took all of two seconds. She’d only just opened the door to see Roxie of all people on her porch, not even had the time to ask her why she’d come calling.

No, now they were all collectively on a mission to save the black cat scampering into the living room at full speed.

Epstein-Laudani Townhome, Sheepshead Bay

“Finch, grab him before—!”

Goober’s barking as he takes flight, and Kettle might be desperately confused as to what’s going on, but he has the good sense to scramble away until he can better assess the situation. He’s leaping onto an end table by the couches, double-jumping up on top of a bookcase and huddling against the wall. His tail curls around him, amber eyes widened as he looks over his shoulder to examine the bizarre monstrosity that’s come into his home and chased him up here.

The proud kit’s eyes narrow at the intruder.

Two pairs of eyes stare back. Goober, between barks, and Finch, having crouched down beside him to wrap one of her arms around his shoulders, possibly to keep him from thinking about jumping up anywhere in pursuit. She's all oversized sequined sweater and utmost attention, listening intently as though she may learn from Goober's noises, before stretching an arm out toward the bookcase.

"Behold! Kettle." she declares, seriously, leaning ever so slightly closer down toward Goober without taking her eyes off of this wonder of nature on the bookcase. "Such grace in his natural environment, such wisdom! Watch as he judges like only a cat might, waiting for the loud noises to vanish back into another's territory from up on a familiar perch. Truly," she breathes out, failing to hold back a smile, finally, "Awe inspiring."

Roxie had been in the middle of telling Goober to behave and not embarrass her like last time - to his credit he sat and listened intently with tilted head - when the door opened. In a flash, the dog immediately disregarded every word and bolted into the room. Evil one I return!!

“Goddamnit Goober! We just talked ab—” the young woman starts to shout after him, but just sighs heavily and follows. Swinging the door shut behind her with a kick of a booted foot behind her. Roxie didn’t much like cats either, but she respected that it liked her and should be tolerated. “Sorry, Emily… He gets a one track mind over something he thinks is a danger to us… I guess? I don’t speak dog.” … she thinks?

Evil! I see you! Evil one comes down so I can bite you!

Of course, as soon as Finch grabs the dog he remembers this Friend! Pack! and proceeds to try and give her enthusiastic kisses, emitting the occasional growl in the back of his throat as he side eyes the cat. I am watching you, evil one.

The young homeless woman shrugs the pack off her back and sets it by the door with a familiar clank… don’t ask what all is in there. She won’t tell anyhow. Nothing to see here. The ragged and threadbare hoodie is pushed off her short cropped hair. The look she gives Emily is a mix of sour and apologetic. “Sorry to barge in.. I needed…” Roxie trails off when she finally sees Finch and she’s hit by that familiar feeling of deja vu.

“Who the hell are you?” Roxie suddenly blurts out in confusion and mild fear that stemmed from the reason she was there.

“That’s the next David Attenborough, can’t you tell?” Emily quips off-handedly. She looks up toward the cat on the bookcase in apology. She could coax him down, but she’s not sure the mood has simmered down quite enough yet. Sorry, buddy. I’ll rescue you soon. All things in good time.

Joke spent, her humor dies with it. She draws her knuckles under her nose, sniffing drily before gesturing to the lover of nature documentaries. Deadpan, she introduces the two. “Roxie, this is Finch. Finch, this is Goober’s owner. Fair warning, she’s more coarse than me, but she mostly doesn’t mean it.” Emily glances back at Roxie, adding a shrug that repeats the sentiment. Mostly.

“Goober,” she says more sternly to the dog in particular. “Kettle’s a friend. Be mean to him, no treats again ever.”

Finch is almost too busy to hear any of the introductions, so savagely attacked by the dog's affection that she dramatically falls onto her butt, arm flail and all.

"Aargh! Ohh no! I've been tricked!" She reaches with both hands to ruffle the dog's fur, searching for just the right spots to scratch, all while slowly toppling sideways and stifling a giggle. "I mistook foe for friend! Once more I've underestimated the forces of nature and I'm paying for my crimes of ignorance! Kettle, Emily, avenge me!" With that, she goes limp on the floor. Big smile still on her face, she looks toward the door and calls out with unadulterated cheer, "Hi Goober's owner!"

Goober’s enthusiasm grows as the woman falls over. Watch out, Finch might get a tongue up the nose. When she goes limp on the floor, the pup suddenly stops, his head tilts confused. Friend okay? He snuffles at the young woman’s cheek, tail lazily wagging.

When she calls over to Roxie, Goober jumps back and gives a bark. Ha! Friend is playing! With this revelation, he comes back at her with doubled enthusiasm. You did this to yourself Finch.

Emily’s comment gets a glare, but Roxie doesn’t want to alienate the woman just yet. So she doesn’t snap back a ‘Fuck you,’ instead she watches the two playing on the floor with furrowed brow. A hand slowly lifts in return greeting to Finch. “Hey, strange person on the ground,” she says in a bland tone.

The sense of deja’vu won’t go away.

“Is… is she always like that?” Roxie asks Emily. The wholesomeness going on before them is finally too much for the homeless woman.


The little dogs stops, now sitting on Finch’s chest, attention on Roxie. “Enough already. Pretty fucking sure I saw you eat something dead on the way here.” Goober’s mouth hangs open in what can only be a proud smile. It was delicious.

Finch pleads for revenge. Kettle doesn't move from his spot. In his wisdom, he's divined there's no real threat at hand— at least not to her.

"She's indeed always like this," Emily informs with false graveness. "It's a terminal affliction, I'm afraid. A case of optimam aeternum, entirely incurable, no matter what life throws at her." The smile on her face gives away she doesn't find this to be a bad thing at all, and she leans forward to offer Finch a hand up from the ground. Someone has to save her from Goober, after all.

Then she's looking up to the cat on top of the bookcase. "C'mere, Ket," Emily coos up at him, offering her arms up. He blinks balefully, and for a moment it seems he won't budge, but then he reaches his front paws off the top of the case to wrap his arms around her neck and she scoops him down from the case. "There we go." she says affectionately while he nuzzles the underside of her chin, then she looks down to Goober. "Be nice. This is his house, he just lets us all stay in it."

That's not how rent works in the slightest around here, but Goober isn't likely to know that, either.

Emily turns to look back to Roxie with a lift of her brow. "Chaos contained, what's up?" For a moment, she looks over the threadbare hoodie clinging to the girl, the look in her eyes shifting. "Pizza, games, and a sleepover?" she asks as lightly as she can manage, trying to make the idea of potentially staying the night sound as casual as possible— and more importantly, keep her from having to swallow her pride in asking.

Unless, of course, she had other motives for stopping by.

With the help of her friend, Finch rises with a start, hopping to her feet with her smile half replaced by something a hell of a lot more sheepish looking now that she's upright. This quite possibly having to do with the mention of dead things in relation to her slobbered face.

"I can bounce," she offers Roxie brightly, and in a way that somehow makes crystal clear she has never used this word in this context before, "if you want Emily to yourself! I was just over here to steal her learnin' books. But first—" She blinks, throws both her hands up to point at her face, and starts backing away toward the kitchen. "I'm gonna go wash my face!"

And OFF she zooms.

Goober bounces off Finch when Emily moves to help her, only to start growling and softly woofing at the cat. “Sleepov- What? No!” It’s almost like a girl going ‘eww’ over cooties. Except, Roxies looks at Emily like she grew another head or maybe just crazy. Though pizza… when was the last time she had that?

Roxie shakes her head, pushing the idea away, though her stomach proceeds to growl in protest.

Of course, there goes Finch like some nymph in the woods. “I don’t think I have seen so much positive energy wrapped up in a human body.” It sounded like a wonder to the homeless woman. Goober, on the other hand, was enjoying the enthusiasm of the happy one.

I like her! She is fun! The smallish pup bounds after her with the happiest look, like Finch’s enthusiasm was contagious. Play? Hey? Hey? Play? he yaps after her. Once the pair disappear from view, Roxie looks reluctantly at Emily.

“No. I… “ Roxie sighs like she can’t believe she was going to say this, “I kinda need a favor. You’re SeeSaw right?”

The rejection causes a flicker of hurt to surface in Emily's expression, her protective embrace around the black cat in her arms shifting. She looks away quickly to watch Finch bound off, forcing a smile until she turns away. Then it's just her and Roxie and whatever the hell she wants.

Her look is flat as she arches an eyebrow. "Seesaw?" she echoes back skeptically. A second later it clicks. "You mean SESA? Sort of."

Sort of was a lie, though. She definitely was. Emily starts to scowl at herself about it, one hand lifting to stroke the cat's back and entice him to stay in her arms until the dog's gone. "I work with them, yeah," she amends, none of the earlier openness and lightness in it. "What's up?"

There is a hesitation, Roxie fidgets with the edge of her jacket… she might be regretting being there. It was taking more than Emily could know for the homeless woman to be there, but there was a desperation in the look she levels at Emily. “They do those evo tests, right? Is there a way to sneak one out?” Realizing almost immediately how stupid that sounded, Roxie looks away with embarrassment.

“Lately, weird things have been happenin’ to me and I need to know if I’m like them. Like the ones that killed all those people.” Roxie says in a low and fearful tone, still not quite looking at the other woman. Maybe fearing judgement over her possibly being a freak, but also it leaves the question of what kind of world did she grow up in?

“I-i-i was tested..” Brows furrow, when Roxie realizes she can’t remember if she ever was. “I think?” she amends quietly.

Something in Roxie's tone from the beginning sets off something in the back of Emily's mind. Her instinct is to meet the question with judgment, but not at all for the reasons the other young woman might expect. She catches herself from acting on her knee-jerk reaction the moment she looks into Roxie's eyes, though.

She sees the desperation. The fear. The doubt.

It keeps her from thinking dangerous freaks is how Roxie might see herself, but rather, how she thinks other people will see her. How she's been trained to see anyone like that.

Emily shifts the cat in her arms again, bracing him against her shoulder and chest with one hand. "Hey," she says softly, a total paradigm shift. "Yeah, they've got field tests and stuff they can do for free. Completely confidential, and they can tell you if you test as Expressive."

"If you do, though," is said more sternly, ensuring she's got Roxie's attention. Emily holds the look on her for a moment before her expression softens. Her tone is careful. "It's okay, you know? It's not the end of the world." Silently, she's relieved she's able to hold her own ability in place while making that assertion. "Manifestation is different for everybody and most abilities aren't dangerous. Not inherently."

Emily pauses before asking gently, "What kind of weird stuff's been happening?"

Don't anyone mind the doubly fresh-faced Finch, rounding a corner and returning to the room as casually as she can manage — meaning not casually in the least. Hands behind her back and eyes decidedly not on the two other people in the room, she trails a hurried path to a brightly coloured backpack sat in a corner and then sinks to her haunches to start digging through her belongings, and to make herself as small as possible.

A few seconds later, she PULLS out a bag of pet treats, holding it high over her head in victory. There's also some actual confetti that comes raining down around her as it's accidentally pulled out with the treats, but apparently this just being scattered in her bag is not of note.

There is a slump of Roxie’s shoulders, she didn’t want to go in and she might have said that, but then Goober comes bounding back into the room happily. He’s following the happiest of people still. The sight elicits a small smile on her lips for the briefest second, but then it’s gone again just as quickly.

“I’ve… I’ve been having deja’vu.” Doesn’t everyone one? “But… like. Goober led me to Joaquin’s place and I swear, Emily… I felt I had been there before. It felt like home. Like… like in a dream or somethin’.” How does one explain that feeling? Roxie was trying. “I even knew without him telling me, where he kept Goober’s kibble.” Hands motion towards the dog who has spotted the treats being hoisted in the air. “And just now when I saw….”

TREATS! Treats! You are the best human! You are my favorite human… But not as much as my human. My human is better, but treats!!!

Goober is very excited about this prospect of treats! He sits in front of the treat giver, letting the confetti sprinkle over his coat. He doesn’t care, he’s laser focused on what Finch has in her hands.

Oh please! Oh please!

“Hold on,” Roxie’s thought process completely derails with the rain of confetti. “Is… is that confetti? You are just carrying around… “ There is an actual bark of disbelief from the woman. “ Who the fuck carries confetti around in their pack?” She simply can’t even fathom this.

Listening to Roxie's description of what specifically happened, Emily keeps her calm. Even through Finch's sneaky traipsing. But when Roxie is derailed, she finally looks to see what's happening. Emily's expression falters. "El, what the heck are you doing carrying around dog treats?" she asks with a touch of exasperation. They're hopefully not for random dogs on the street. Oh no.

The confetti doesn't even register. She's seen weirder.

Emily just sighs, lifting a hand to pat Kettle as he tenses and swivels his head toward the dog, even though said dog isn't charging currently. "Here's a stupid question," she asides to Roxie. "Does it ever feel like you know what Goober's saying? What he's thinking or feeling?"

"They're for random dogs on the street!" Finch announces, taking her attention off of Goober just for a second to beam at Emily before she looks back down to work the bag open.

"The confetti was for a thing last week but it's so hard to get out so I just kinda, like, left it." The more words leave her, the more ridiculously babytalkish they get, until finally she underhand tosses a treat toward Goober saying, "Oh whaddagooboy!"

Roxie gives a confused look at Emily and shrugs, “Doesn’t everyone?” It's a genuinely innocent question and why she might not have suspected. “You spend years with a dog you’re gonna have a good idea what they’re thinking.” She looks at the cat, with mild disdain and nods at it. “Like that one. You know which sounds is a cry for food? Or when they want out? Or just want affection?” But, that said, Roxie knows what the other woman is getting at.

“Goober ever meet her?” Roxie asks with a nod towards the pair on the floor. “Cause I feel like we met and that she’s a friend.”

Over by Finch, Goober’s head tilts one way and then another as Finch talks to him with the baby talk. He knows she’s talking to him, but the change in tone is throwing him off a little. Doesn’t throw him off his game as he snaps the treat out of the air.

Yum! Best treat! Goober’s head comes up, ears forward. FF69B4|More??## Maybe if he… The dog sits up prairie dog style, body straight with hope that this trick will get more treats.

Emily boggles for a moment at Finch, trying to resist the urge to grit her teeth. "Rando dogs on the street could be feral, Finch," she stresses that concern tensely. "A few years back a pack killed a kid, and that's just a scenario I know of." Closing her eyes, she tries to dial her panic back by the time they open again. "For fuck's sake, just be careful, okay?" She sighs.

Doesn't everyone? Roxie asks, and Emily cants her head to the side at her, silently imploring her to give it some thought. When she does, when she opens up about the deja vu related to Finch, her brow ticks upward.

"I mean, Goober met everybody at the Lanthorn. He was pretty taken with Finch in particular, though." she muses aloud. But the specificity of those feelings, and the confidence in them…

"What you described is different," Emily adds gently. "It's a bit… more." She tries to ignore how her hair wants to stand on end at the use of that particular term, but she doesn't know how else to call it. "The deja vu, to use your terms, that does sound like it could be related to an ability. It could be a type of empathy, maybe, or some other kind of ability that allows you to share experiences." She tips one shoulder up as she ventures, "But it also could be a kind of telepathy, if you feel like you're able to talk to him and actually understand the nuance of what he's saying."

An earlier date may have found Finch flinching at Emily's concern, but there's something to be said for getting used to such things. Something Finch very much does not feel like speaking aloud, clearly, only shooting Emily the briefest of knowing glances, eyebrows up. Message received.

She's not just listening to Emily, though. Goober sitting straight up catches her attention oh so easily, but the ecstatic smile that blossoms back onto her face has something new behind it now. The telltale signs of a newly formed PLAN.

"Hey, um. Roxie, right?" She calls in sing-song without looking away, shaking some treats out onto her hand before throwing one gently over to Goober again. "Can you turn around for a second?"

“All owners talk to their dogs.” It wasn’t a new concept to her, even if it was different for her, she might be trying to live in denial-ville. Population… this girl! “He’s just a fucking dog.” Roxie knows it's a lie as soon as it leaves her lips. He’s never been just a dog. Still, it was crazy that she could potentially ‘talk to him’.

“A dog empath? Dog telepath?” There is a nervous laugh under those words. Is she paling? Roxie looks back at her companion for the last few years, “Naw… Couldn’t be.”


Roxie turns back to where the dog is still begging for more treats, brows pulling low with concentration. Goober! She tries to think the name at that furry back. There isn’t any movement on his part, but an ear flicked back a little. She blinks. Did she see that? Did he….?

Before Roxie can muster up the courage to try again, Finch is there interrupting her thoughts. “What? Why?!?” What in the ever loving… Roxie looks at Emily for some context, but then sighs out a “For the love of… fiiiine,” and turns around. Arms go out in a.. “Well… now what?” then fall with a smack against her thighs.

Emily can see, no— can feel the way this all rapidly nears overwhelming for Roxie. It's okay, she wants to stress, feeling the words stir within her. She bites back the reassurance from taking flight, not trusting the words to be merely soothing. It takes her a moment, but Kettle in her arms helps. He peers at her oddly, curls the side of his head against her chest and kneads at her clavicle.

Thankfully, there's Finch in the meantime. The activity she directs Roxie to take surprises Emily, and she looks over to the girl and her shiny jacket with a nod of approval.

Yeah, this could definitely help sort out what kind of ability it is.

"Just relax," she advises Roxie offhandedly.

Enjoyment is easily gleaned from the smile Finch shoots back toward the other two, still low to the floor and reaching to ruffle Goober's little head. "You're doing great," she assures calmly and cheerfully. Roxie? Goober? Both, possibly?

Shaking the bag against her hand again and curling her fingers inward over her palm, she looks back to the dog. Again, watching closely and expectantly and taking a deeeep breath, she raises her hand— and throws.

Except. Nothing leaves the hand but air. A fake-out.

The dog sitting in front of Finch is so wound up with excitement. There was another treat coming, he almost couldn’t contain himself wiggling forward a little more. A little closer to the target. Yes! Treat! More! His tummy was getting a bit round from these snacks, but he wasn’t about to let anything go to waste.

The hand goes up, Goober freezes. Every muscle is tensed ready to snap the treat from midair. Finch throws!!!


Goober looks confused why there was no treat in his mouth. He looks one side of him and the other looking for the goodie.

Missed? Where did it go? There was a treat somewhere in this very room and it was not in his mouth!! He was certain of this. Getting up from his spot, Goober hurried around the room with his nose to the floor, frantic to find it before ANYONE ELSE!

Meanwhile, Roxie stands waiting for whatever is supposed to happen. The brush of Goober passing her leg pulls her attention down. What? With a twist she looks back at Finch. “Is… something supposed to happen ooor did you just not want me to see you psyching out my dog.” Roxie can’t seem to get mad at this sunshine made real. She could see why Goober liked her. “Cause, I feel a bit like a fool right now.”

She isn’t the only one. Goober has finally concluded that he’s been duped and plops himself back in front of Finch expectantly. Sneak! You got me. Treat now? His head tips over to one side waiting for his reward.

Emily can only chuckle. She knows better than most how an ability doesn't do what you might want it to on command. "Did you feel anything from him? Thoughts? Emotions?" she asks nonchalantly. She shifts her weight from one foot to the other, stroking Kettle's back in a nearing-futile attempt to keep him still and in her arms. It seems like Roxie hadn't noticed anything until Goober bumped her, but just in case.

"But… you know, a test will only confirm if you're Expressive or not. It can't tell you what your ability might be." Emily offers up, glancing to Roxie again. "They've got people who can interview with you and work with you to determine what your exact ability might be, sort of like this…" The light in her eyes shift as she admits, "Or there's sometimes people who can tell what others' abilities are. I … know someone like that." She's uncertain what Julie might think of such a visit, but it could be an option.

"The good news, though—" she's quick to stress, "is what you have doesn't sound dangerous. It definitely sounds… Goober-oriented. Knowing people he's met and where his food was kept makes me think that."

"Or hell, maybe I'm wrong and it's clairvoyance, maybe just about things that are important to you, or something." Emily admits, shrugging.

"Like Goober!" Finch pipes up, abandoning her plan with a quick shrug and shaking one more treat out to offer it to Goober on her palm, before pocketing the rest of the bag. Then, as if to him alone, she says in a hushed but no less excited tone of voice, "Are you staying? Y'wanna go lie on the couch? Do you like PIZZA?"

The mention of his name has Goober looking back at Emily expectantly, treat hanging half out of his mouth. Me? I heard me.

Roxie in the meantime is shaking her head at Emily. “I can’t go in there.”

Her voice draws Goober's attention to her and… something happens. It was like a connection that she didn’t notice before. Familiar like an old blanket, but also new. Roxie is suddenly very aware of what he is thinking, of the memory of how the treats taste. A line of ice draws down her back, eyes widening.

”Sis! Get away from there, you’re gonna get in trouble. You know we can’t watch them execute the freaks.”

She couldn’t look away.

Roxie was completely ignoring her brother, frozen in place by the scene beyond. Never before had she dared to watch. Her eye, positioned in front of the tear in the tent, squinted against sunlight outside the heavy tent. It was bright and was making her eyes water a little, but she could see the evo family kneeling in the dirt.

“I think I see momma. What… what’s she doing?”

“They’re gonna have your hide if they find out you were watching them.”

She wasn’t listening though, as a young boy’s pale eyes stared back into hers. How did he know she was watching him through the little tear. That gaze held onto her and it was like… they were connected. Somehow, Roxie could almost taste the boy's terror, taste of his tears on her tongue, and worse… feel the chill of her mother's shotgun as it’s pressed against the back of his head.

«I don’t want to die..» The little boy's terrified, quavering voice whispered in her mind. «Please he—»


A breath escapes Roxie, only to have another quick breath taken in. Eyes blink a few times as she remembers herself, a paw touching her leg and a soft whine. Goober had abandoned his spot to console his person. .

You are okay. I am okay. We… are okay. That last gets a soft wuff and the now slobbery and half eaten treat is dropped at her feet. Roxie jerks her leg away from Goober, forcing him to stop touching her. Scared? Why? Was I wrong? I am sorry. I love you. The words are clearer than before, she can hear them. The two young women with her hear the gasp. The type that means she’s been caught off guard.

Mercifully, Finch’s question distracts her and gets more head shaking, “No.. I-I-I need to get out of here. I…” They can see the edge of panic, hear it in her voice. It was getting hard for her to breathe in there. “Forget I asked about the test.” She knows now her worst fear has happened.

Even before Roxie starts speaking, Emily can see the panic coming on. She lets Kettle finally take his leave hopping back on top of the bookshelf, all the better so she can turn back to the shellshocked Roxie. She can't possibly know what it is that drives the reaction, but she can see it for what it is.

"Roxie," Emily tries to caution her, hands lifted in a calming gesture. "You don't gotta go anywhere. You don't gotta deal with this alone." Her brow knits in concern. "If you don't want to talk about it anymore, we don't have to. We can just— hang out and help you get your mind off it for a while. Okay?"

It takes everything in her to not reach for her gift in trying to convince her to stay, but she holds back from it. "Please don't take off while you're like this."

Finch has gone quiet, her bubbliness dissipated as she rises slowly to her feet and lifts both hands up to coil her fingers into a strand of hand hanging down by the side of her face. Something about her withdraws as she watches Roxie, and turns momentarily inward with a slant of her eyebrows and a bite at her lip.

She waits for Emily to speak first, standing back. Within the bit of quiet that follows, though, she urges in the same way one might solemnly promise something important, "You're safe."

Despite all the reassurances and support, Roxie is already halfway to the door, but it’s what Finch says that brings her up short. Back straight and fists clenched, she turns back to the others.

«I don’t want to die..»

“Safe?!” Roxie scoffs at the idea, looking at both women like they are crazy. “I’m a fucking freak. I won’t ever be safe, not even in the god forsaken Safe Zone.” Her agitated state has Goober cowering under a table, head low watching his human as she struggles with this new reality.

Roxie glowers at the hiding pup like it’s his fault it happened, “I don’t just have a target… I have a huge fucking target on my back.” She can feel the burn of frustration behind her eyes, the prickle of it at the corners of her eyes. Fuck her for being weak. Emotions get you killed.

”You’re still thinking of them as people… they’re not. They’re freaks of nature. Monsters and we’re the monster hunters. We’ll save this world, yet, baby girl.”

Roxie wasn’t any of that… she was just like the women before her. (Little did she know about, Emily) “They tell you they fixed everything, but there are so many of them out there still. They blew up that ship… they harass people in the market. Kill people. The one thing I had going for me is I was normal.” She isn’t yelling now, but her agitation is still there under the surface, making her skin itch. “I-” Roxie starts to say more, but a pressure against her leg interrupts her thoughts, forcing her to look down at what it was.

It was Goober, leaning against her legs, his soulful eyes cast upward at her with that love that only a dog could offer. Shoulders slump as the tension goes out of them. “I’m sorry.” It’s hard to know who she is talking to, maybe all of them.

Emily has to think very carefully about what she wants to say.

Fly off at the handle, risk setting her off. Don’t speak hard enough, and Roxie won’t be grounded in the moment, won’t realize she’s not alone. But what if she freaks out anyway, realizing that Emily’s Expressive, too?

What if, what if, what if…

When Roxie’s tension breaks and she apologizes, Emily finally breathes. She looks the other young woman up and down, glancing for a moment to Finch to take mental support from her presence. You’re safe, Finch had said, and Emily fully believes that. I’m not, Roxie had countered…

“It can be dangerous if people know too much about you, sure,” Emily admits quietly. “You put the wrong shit down on paper, you talk to people you don’t know about too much just once, it can all fucking turn around on you and you end up with a goddamned knife at your throat after someone comes at you with a baseball bat.” Her voice strains before it hardens, her gaze sharpening as she stresses, “Welcome to the fucking club, Roxie.”

“You’re not alone,” Emily promises, and her expression harshens with a raw angling of her brow as she goes on. She remains tall and tense despite the anguish in her expression. “And you’re not a fucking freak, do you hear me? You’re you. And if anyone would dare try to come here and hurt you for being you, they’re going to have to go through me, and they’re going to have to fucking go through Teo.”

Her severity ends with a sudden blanching, a touch of embarrassment in her expression. There’s a missing piece of context here. “—Teo’s my roommate,” she explains hastily. “He’s like six feet tall, Italian, and will absolutely fuck up any anti-Evolved racist you might run into.”

There's a certain kind of restraint in the way Finch holds herself, her chin up high and her eyes drifting gently between Emily and Roxie both. Thoughts unspoken, ponderings she does not quite feel comfortable voicing aloud.

This is not her home, and it is not her place. But that doesn't mean she can't still help. In her own way.

"Emily!" She starts, disapprovingly, as is custom after at least every other swear word that leaves her friend's mouth in Finch's presence. But her tone of voice switches to something personally insulted, then. Because how dare she. "Don't forget me. I'll - get 'em right in the…" she stalls, sliding one heel ever so slightly back and rising both fists to guard her face. It's a more convincing posture than the words that leave her, by far. "Right in their dumb faces!"

Emily’s admission has Roxie taking a step back, with a mild flash of fear and damp eyes widening again. A part of her wants to ask her outright, the words are right there on the tip of her tongue, but… but she likes something about this woman. Roxie suddenly didn’t want to know.

“Gawd, you’re fuckin’ adorable,” Roxie can’t help but comment in Finch’s direction as she puts up her dukes so to speak. They’d eat her alive, thinking on the ones she’d come up against recently. But she didn’t have the heart to tell Finch and ruin that determination. Goober doesn’t care, almost feeling the girl's enthusiasm he leaps up and bounces around her barking as if saying ’that’s right!’

I bite the bad ones! Goober announces catching the memories of the people he bit.

There was this weird feeling as Roxie looks at the pair, something at her core, something she’s felt only on occasion… .She didn’t like it, because it meant eventually she’d have to leave. She couldn’t tell them everything. How could they know? What would they think? Roxie couldn’t dare tell them or anyone. Still…

Roxie reaches up and scratches at the back of her head, looking uncertain and sheepish. It was time for a subject change… quick. “So.. uh.. About that pizza?”

Emily’s roughness softens even further when she’s called out by Finch, the glisten in her eye more noticeable as her gaze flicks her direction. She doesn’t have a response at first, lips parted to speak, but words continuing to fail her. Finally does she let out a faint laugh. “You’re right, you’ll give ‘em a shiner, too, I’m sure.”

She thinks she’s being slick with how she rubs at the side of her face to wick away the moisture at the corner of her eye, but it’s obvious to anyone looking. The glimpse she’d gotten into Roxie’s motivations, even not understanding what she’d felt, it had moved her… and frustrated her. She didn’t know how to make her feel safe, ultimately, or how to help her feel more comfortable with herself and her situation.

The topic of food is a quick distraction away from all that, though. “Yeah, let’s— let’s see about calling an order in. Um… there’s a pamphlet on the…”

Fridge, which she pads quickly down the hall to retrieve. It’s in hand on the way back, offered out to whoever grabs it first. She has money it’ll be Finch, to peruse the toppings with those starry eyes of hers.

“And Roxie?” Emily can’t help but add, looking back her way with a touch of apology. Just one last thing before she lets the topic drop. “You might feel overwhelmed, but you have to remember it’s invisible. The only person who knows is you, until you either tell, or show. Guard yourself with that knowledge.”

Whether or not Finch would stand her own in a fight is irrelevant, because Emily is absolutely right in that the pamphlet barely even manages to make its way up and already it's SNATCHED away.

Breathing out a looong sigh of relief and reaching down to ruffle Goober for jumps well jumped, Finch finds her smile again and gives the options available in writing a quick look. But. "Do you think they do surprises? Surprise pizza?" She asks Roxie, wandering closer to hand her the pamphlet.

Whether or not it's actually taken from her is apparently not important, because a second later she's already let go and is zooming off to the kitchen again. "Oh oh! I'll get the drinks!"

Roxie tenses a little as Finch gets close, but she reluctantly takes the pamphlet… or more like scrambles to catch it as it’s released. At least, she has good reflexes. The pamphlet is held there between both hands as she watches Finch scurry off again, perplexed. Once out of sight, the homeless woman looks down at the colorful pamphlet in her hands showing a rather mouthing pizza.

Roxie felt very uncomfortable right now, but she was rooted in place. She was used to being on guard and keeping people at a distance with only Goober to keep her company. A part of her was whispering that this was a bad idea, yet another missed people.

The look she casts Emily looks a bit lost. What do I do? those eyes seem to ask.

The look she receives in turn isn't exactly kind, but it is certain. "You got this," Emily tells her, a thin smile present for a fleeting moment before it's gone.

Then she's fishing her phone from her pocket. One to warn Teo about guests, and secondly to get ready to place the order. "For the love of god, we're not letting her order a surprise pizza," she says in a low voice so it hopefully doesn't carry to the kitchen. "But it can be a surprise for her." Emily glances up to Roxie out of the corner of her eye. "What do you normally like?"

“What do I like?” Now Roxie looks confused. “I don’t know?” It’s an honest answer, a sort of innocence around it. “I can’t really remember the last time I had pizza. Uh…” She looks at the kitchen door and then the pamphlet. Her face screws up into a look of uncertainty and after a moment, holds it out to Emily. “Fuck it. Surprise me too… I guess?”

"Two surprise pizzas!!!" Comes Finch's very helpful and also very excited commentary from the kitchen, just before a small glassy clink noise, an alarmed squeak and an— "… I caught it!"

Emily's eyes roll into the back of her head at the sound of the near miss before they shut entirely. They only open after she's hit dial on her phone. "We'll just try pepperoni and mushroom." she stage-whispers in exasperation, looking to Roxie meaningfully. Don't spoil the surprise, yeah? When the line connects she begins an absent pace around the living room. "Yeah, hi, I'd like to place an order for pick-up…?"

If you squinted at it, in just the right light, everything about the situation seemed almost normal. Just three girls, hanging out, ordering pizza, watching movies and (maybe even!) playing some video games before crashing for the night.

It was normal enough. They were normal enough.

Fuck anyone who says anything different.

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