Not Again


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Scene Title Not Again
Synopsis After surprise visitors come to the Tavern at the End of the World, Asi retreats to pre-emptively grieve and prepare for changes she assumes are to come only to be set straight by Silas.
Date June 12, 2021

Asi's Room, Lowe's

Those who've seen Asi around today indicated she went to the higher, residential levels after pacing the lower for several laps. Undoubtedly heading up there meant she was going for her own room, and the door to her tiny abode, such as it is, is open on approach.

The single overhead light is on inside the converted janitorial closet. Deep as it might be, it's still only seven or eight feet wide, and metal shelves along the left side to the back compete with shelves midway on the right for monopoly over that real estate. Jars, buckets, and boxes of bits and bobs normally line those shelves, with the spot directly in front of the mattress in the back corner playing home to a dwindled supply of clothing, including the tightly-folded winter coat she'd worn on the trip abroad. A piecemeal computer sits on top of a crate along the back wall, an old, boxy monitor adjacent to a tower and keyboard, screen dark.

Asi's in the progress of re-organizing and re-evaluating the layout of the space when she catches sight of Silas out of the corner of her eye. She finishes shoving a mason jar quarter-filled with what look like old watch batteries onto a shelf with barely enough space for it, pausing in the activity of creating more space for living in this tiny room again.

"You didn't leave," she accuses him with a tense fist balled by her side to keep that commentary from becoming loud. Nonetheless, she repeats through clenched teeth, "You didn't leave."

While on first blush she might seem to be angry, Silas knows well there's rarely just anger. "Someone else can give them answers," Asi insists, voice thick with emotion as her head tilts. "Someone else can guide their way. Someone else can."

"Haven't they already gotten enough from you?" she asks plaintively.

Silas had just had his hand raised to knock, but he's too slow; she's spotted him. He says nothing at her first protest, or her second; it's only when she asks her question that he answers. "I did, actually," he says quietly. "Not long after you did. Took a walk."

He steps in, shutting the door, and finds a wall to lean on. "That man. Richard. He was the one Elisabeth was trying to find. The one she was trying to take their daughter back to meet. Can you imagine that? Getting born traveling worlds? Growing up meeting different versions of the same people and thinking that shit is normal? Never realizing that's not how things are supposed to be?"

Silas exhales, and that exhalation is shakier than he'd been expecting; his hands are shaking a bit. "I had a choice there, at the bottom of the sea. I could jump through the portal and leave behind everything and everyone I'd ever known — die in this world, pretty much — or stay there and just plain die. I chose the first." He's told this tale before, but never with so little fanfare.

"They got married. Had a happily ever after, dammit. So why the fuck would he do this? Come here?"

Silas slouches, his eyes turning up to the ceiling. "They say they're here to save their world. Some kinda disaster coming over there, apparently, but there's something here that might help them avert that, I guess. They're looking for a pair of scientists by the name of Drucker; Roux's parents, apparently."

Now he looks back to Asi. "Richard did me a good turn over there; he was a friend. I'm not gonna leave em to die. But so far, he's bein' about as straightforward as an eel goin' through a corkscrew waterslide, so it seems pretty clear he doesn't need much help," Silas says, and there's definitely some bitterness there.

Asi shakes her head with a note of disagreement when he describes the situation that happened under the sea, but she pulls her arms into a fold to keep her quiet until he's done saying his piece. She shifts her weight, socked toes of one foot digging into the ground. "You did what you had to to survive, and I'm glad you did— but you wouldn't have been there in the first place had those people not arrived and needed to be there."

She takes a step forward, then another to close the distance, frown pronounced. "You should have been able to stay with the Forthright, to come back at the turn of the tide in the fight against the Sentinel. To be the big damn hero, instead of having to be in the middle of all their…" Shoulders pinching upward, Asi looks away and scowls. "All of their world-traveling bullshit." On a sharp exhale, she flattens her expression out, arms unfolding to come by her side, even if her hands refuse to relax out of being fists.

"I'm glad," she snaps, not at him. Her tone softens some after, trying to not take out her frustration on him. "That you left. That he doesn't need help. Just don't—" She finds herself turning back to him, eyes lifting to his. "Don't let yourself get wrapped up in feeling like you owe them, or him. You helped them already. It's their turn to do the same by you and let you…" Her brow ticks as she fights to keep her voice even. "Let you live your life."

"There's enough to deal with here as it is," Asi insists quietly, voice tapering off.

Silas blinks. Be the big damn hero? Me? Come on! I'm no hero, he thinks, and has actually taken a breath to say. Maybe she thinks differently, a voice whispers in the back of his mind, hitting him with the approximate force of a depth charge impacting a submarine.

For a moment all he can do is stare… then he lowers his head. "I'm sorry," he says at last, his voice quiet. "I'm sorry I didn't come back, Asami," There hadn't been a choice otherwise; he knows that, and she does as well. But…

"And I know you're right," Silas says, his expression growing more resolute. "I don't want to turn my back on someone who's done me a good turn in the past — and Richard did, in his world — but I'm not plannin' to join 'em for the long haul. We've started a trade route; hell, we've started whole diplomatic relations. Maybe it's vain of me to say, but I think we've laid the foundations for bringing the world back together. But… those foundations gotta be maintained, built upon. That's the work I'm planning to devote myself to," he says. He hesitates for a moment, and when he speaks again his voice is uncharacteristically soft. "I was… hoping you'd stay with me for that. It's a big job. Hard work. But I can't think of anyone I'd rather share it with."

For all the effort she's putting in keeping herself together, Asi nearly lashes out when he uses her name. She takes in a sharp breath, though, to pad the pressure chamber of her lungs and that's the end of it. She knows— she knows he just means to show his sincerity. Maybe something else, too, like regret there weren't other choices for them to take at the time. All she can do is nod, blinking a look away from him with stinging eyes.

When he points out the crazy venture he started, a broken start of a chuckle escapes her, one desperate and relieved he's remembered this. "Exactly," she whispers, glad he doesn't need reminded. "Exactly. There's too much here to…"

Her throat works, head turning away. She lifts one hand, swiping the side of her face with the blade of her palm pre-emptively. Asi almost insistently turns the whole of her away to go back to organizing, to stiffly declare Good! to that he planned to devote himself to what he's started here, but she stops partway. Something catches in her.

"I'm not going anywhere," she answers, not nearly as flippant or dismissive as she means for it to be. Hers is a tone matching the softness of his. "And neither are you," comes with more of an affronted challenge to it, elbowing him verbally without actually lifting a hand. "This— whole operation doesn't work without an optimist at the helm, you know. Can you imagine how fast it'd all come undone if this was left up to me?"

She starts to laugh again, but it breaks and brings her to lean forward rather than step back. It's pridefully that she hides her face against his chest, and it's something else that draws her arms up around his torso, embracing him fiercely. The first time she tries to speak again ends in failure, only resulting in a tightening of that hug, fingers curling into his shirt.

Finally, she mutters meaningfully, "Be vain, Si. Whatever it takes to keep you here." She pauses to breathe, to attempt her way back to being more composed. "Or at least somewhere I can follow," Asi asks of him in a whisper that barely carries up.

Silas grunts when she elbows him, but he's smiling… even though his eyes are stinging a bit too. He wonders, a little, when he turned into an optimist… but he already knows. Sunspot.

When she leans in, her arms wrapping around him, his wrap around her in turn; gently at first, but then more tightly. I'm here, he says with that embrace, without the sophistry of mere words. His throat is too tight for words, so for the moment he just holds on.

"I'm not going anywhere you can't follow. Not this time," he manages, letting his head rest on her shoulder.

"Good," she answers this time in a murmur, believing in his conviction on that point enough the shoulder he leans on begins to slope, and the anxiety keeping her hands glued to his back eases. Her face turns against his chest, one arm snaking closer to herself so she can surreptitiously wipe her eyes before lifting her head. Asi breathes again without her chest feeling like it might collapse, one arm still looped around him.

She smiles as she looks up again, or at least she tries, one side of her mouth getting the memo. "Good," she repeats again, squeezing him with the arm still around him. Sense would dictate she should let go now, but she doesn't, continuing to hold on to closeness beyond that moment of emotion.

Asi bides away reflecting on it by saying, "I'm sorry I stormed out. Panicked. Just felt like somehow everything that happened before was on the verge of happening again, somehow." The breath she sighs out is heavy with the weight of letting go of that fear. "Whatever happens, though, whatever changes come in their wake…" Because she believes something, undoubtedly, will happen.

It's a small town, after all. Easy to rock the boats of the people living here.

She shakes her head instead of seeking an end to that sentence, tipping her forehead back to his shoulder. It's only there that she finds the words after all. "I trust you."

His breath catches at that; for a moment all he can do is close his eyes, smile, and give a tiny nod. It takes him a moment to be able to trust his voice. "Thanks," he whispers back.

In a moment, maybe he'll say something glib to reassure her that she's got nothing to be sorry for. But that moment can wait its turn. Right now…

Right now, he wants to make this moment last; whatever lies beyond is a little later on.

It's one Asi leans into once she's calmed away from the idea she's maybe overstepped. Her other arm finds its way around him again, eyes closing and head turning to more comfortably fix herself to him. The longer the moment lasts, the more sharpened edges to her begin to blunt, worldly defiance and defensiveness going dormant.

Mostly dormant. She eventually shifts to look past Silas, lets a breath like a laugh escape her. "Oh, good," she murmurs. "The door's closed. I thought I was going to have to threaten to stab a voyeur by now." Another faint laugh later and she rests her forehead against his chest, testing out the idea of loosing her embrace of him in the process. "At least we don't have to worry about that," she acknowledges quietly, wiping her cheek clean with the blade of her hand.

She can't quite bring herself to look up, other hand resting on his side. She takes in a deep breath, exhaling it away carefully.

Looks like she's handling the glib disengagement. Silas chuckles — it's barely audible, but she's close enough to feel it. He feels her grip loosen, and then, after a moment, he lets his loosen as well, a precursor to stepping back. "Yeah," he says quietly. "Figured we probably oughta keep stabbings to a minimum," he agrees easily, lips curling into an amused grin that she can probably hear in his voice even if she can't see it.

Asi lets out a like chuckle in reply, turning her head to look at the messy arrangement of shelves. "If you've got a minute to help me play Tetris, I'm in the process of freeing up some space in here," she explains and asks in one go, soaring past that she'd started this process out of figuring she'd need to clear out room for the few effects she has aboard the Second Star.

"But if you need to run off anyone from the Star, don't let me keep you. I'll be around later."

Silas snorts. "'Course I got time," he grins, and now he takes a step back, the better to eye those shelves and see what exactly he's getting into; it looks like there's a lot of Tetris to do here. "I'm not goin' anywhere anytime soon," he says, just loud enough that Asi can hear it.

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