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Scene Title Rote
Synopsis An unexpected meeting between two travellers proves old connections still matter.
Date November 18, 2019

A knife slides across a whetstone. One, two, three, four, five times. Flip. One, two, three, four, five.l more times. Flip. Repeat. The sound echoes through a.mostly empty room. This is a process that is very familiar to Ling Chao - or Sun Xiaolu as she's known these days. The name doesn't really matter.

Another turn of the knife, and she sighs. This routine was boring - stuck with inferior knives than she was used to, having little use for the instinct she's built up over the years. In most cases she's fine with that. Right now she's just happy to have a whetstone.

The knife is set aside with the whetstone as she reaches for another blade, long and serrated. The wicked kind she might use if she was intending to cause pain. With deftness and skill, she makes a show of drawing forth the knife and dangerously letting the handle dance between fingers like a baton, raising it high and-

Expertly slicing through a piece of bread, as though she were some sort of half rate samurai.

"Stop showin' off, and just make the damn sandwich," an amused voice remarks from down the line. The owner of Harold's Deli isn't much of a mirthful person, but he's grown to appreciate the extremely odd spectacle that Ling pours into her work. It is still as she could ever imagine, so any opportunity to amuse herself is welcome.

The bell on the front door dings, and she takes a deep breath. Rote as ever. She sets the knife aside and piles freshly sliced pastrami on to the hoagie till, looking at her customer with a begrudging smile.

Everything about the newest arrival suggests merely an average delivery guy coming in out of the cold autumn air for an on-the-go meal. Pigeon Courier Services reads the graphical bird logo atop the man's cap. With parcel tucked under an arm he approaches the order counter, dark eyes starting to lift to the menu board in routine decision-making that usually leads to sandwich building. It's a process that perhaps few think about as much as Shahid Wesley-Khan. But it's a process that has become familiar to him, and so he starts right away.

"Hello, turkey on whiii—…"

The process stops. A mental alert message pops visibly onto Shaw's face. He stares at the aproned Ling, dark eyes blinking once, twice, three times before the memories catch up in a rush and he remembers to also breathe.

He also can't help but smile back, his pulls wider with recognition. "Ling!" The name yelps out of him.

Upon seeing Shahid, Ling freezes in place. Was this how Kain had felt when she'd appeared before him at the construction site? A variety of scenarios pass through her mind as she blinks, unresponsive and rather rudely staring. At least, until Shahid says her name. Her shoulders tense, and she closes her eyes.

"Ling?" She tilts her head to the side. "Sun Xiaolu. How may I help you?" A calculated risk in how she presents herself - a name Shaw should know from their time in Arthur Petrelli's world, should he be the same Shaw and not the one native to this timeline. There's a judging look in her eye as she her eyes drift up and down, watching for every little reaction.

"Turkey on rye?" Maybe she misheard, maybe it's intentional as she picks the breadslicing knife back, holding it in a familiar manner - really, she just wants to be sure before she continues this conversation.

Huh? Shaw tilts his head, initial confusion writing itself into his stare. The name she counters with is all but tugged up from the mire of memory, dragged to the beach and left out on the shores of understanding. Recognition meets familiarity. Oh. Oh. As she holds her knife a certain way, he wears an observing manner that only those who've spent years doing nothing but hiding beneath the ground staring at one another can. There's no doubt in Shaw's mind after seeing who he's found.

"On white," he corrects, schooling his smile down to something more presentable and less embarrassing. But he can't stop staring at her, not even daring to blink for fear she might vanish in a puff. But he does dare a question. "Can you make it the 'Smoked' turkey?"

And there's that smile again. Irritatingly chipper, even. But genuinely excited all the same.

Ling's smile fades, expression flattening upon hearing Shaw's pun. "Of course," is almost hissed through teeth, begrudgingly given as she moves down the counter to make his sandwich. The irony isn't lost on her, for all the times she dodged having to help with meals in the hub all those years ago, now here she is doing just the same now. She'll let the boss handle payment.

Eyes half lidded, she goes through the now practiced and rote motions ahead of her. "Would you like anything else on your sandwich?" This asked as she moves to the only deli slicer that doesn't look like it took a beating in the war, and begins to slice some smoked turkey for him.

It's only once the entire hoagie is assembled and wrapped that she looks back to him. "Smoked turkey on white. For Shaw." There it is.

Beaming. That’s what that smile is once she’s clearly unavoidably Ling’d her expression for the pun. He thanks her upon her passing the smoked turkey (with mustard and some fixings) on white to him, upon her speaking his name despite never having offered it to her for the eventual possession of said sandwich. Funny though, he’s never stepped foot in this deli. And the boss knows it too.

Once Shaw’s paid up, he doesn’t leave like the normal customer would, but lingers near the door, intending to observe for several seconds longer, just shy of stalking. The moment his eyes shift away is when he turns around to look for the deli’s store hours, then looks at his wrist watch, then back to Ling. Indecision tempers his initial excitement, then he remembers and pulls out a phone to send a text off.

Found Ling! She makes sandwiches!

“I’ll come back,” he promises. It’s a sincere statement, one with hope buried in the expectation, the anticipation of reunion.

Ling looks up at Shaw, quirking an eyebrow. "Why leave?" She palms her breadcutting knife, sliding it back on the counter. "I am due for a break as it is." This said with a glance over to the boss, who shrugs on response.

Stepping to the side, she undoes her apron and sets it up with a set of others, and steps out from behind the counter. She looks more plainly dressed than Shaw has ever seen her, in just jeans and a black t-shirt.

Slowly she approaches Shaw, smirking at him. "I was wondering if I would start to see more of you. Kain wasn't completely sure who made it through. Just who was with him when he did."

The query puts the brakes on Shaw’s departure. He glances up first to Ling, then to her boss, then back. Oh. “I was going to…” He looks down to the package tucked to him, then behind him towards the door. Another glance checks Ling’s boss, then he scoots back against the door. Shaw angles his head to indicate they should talk outside.

Once they’re out of earshot of possible eavesdropping (at least by human ears), he resumes the conversation in hushed but excitable whisper. “Kain, too? That’s great! Isa will be—” He pauses the thought, setting down the package in the basket of his scooter. The basket is a somewhat jury-rigged affair, but it works well enough. “Are you staying together? Did you come out okay? Did you come out with Kain? Did you talk to the SESA agents?” A deluge of quick questions pours out of the curious man. “We,” he says inclusive of Isa and himself, “were in Kansas.” Obviously, though, not anymore. “Found a lot of waffles.” So many, Ling. So many. This is a pleasing discovery, don’t you know.

The look that Long gives Shaw is slightly on the withering side, lips thin as she listens to him. "I arrived where you were supposed to. You and everyone else." Her head turns to look in the direction of far off Manhattan, though even if they could see it it would be impossible to pick out the Devauex Building.

"Kain is living his own life," she continues a bit more quietly. " and no. Not yet. I… am figuring out how to go about approaching this 'SESA'. " She looks back to the Deli, then to Shaw. "I'm staying along, with what little I have. It isn't much, but… I think it's better than the Hub."

It's certainly better than the wasteland they'd spent almost a year in, or the flood.

Shaw turns his eyes to look in the same direction, but as with her limitations, so does he find it impossible to pick out the Deveaux building. But, he nods in understanding as he turns back to her. “Lots better, less murder,” he says, head bobbing emphatically before he stops to think on that phrase and corrects, “Less murder possibility.” Because, Ling, there’s still murder. He’s not that naive.

Brightening from that dark note, Shaw suddenly adds, “But much better! You should come over. Kain should come over. Isa and Namiko and I, we live in Yamagato Park. They let us stay in a very big apartment, because Isa and Namiko work there. And it’s so big, it feels like the whole Hub could fit.” The brightened tone dims as Shaw belatedly remembers, blinking as certain faces and names come to mind…

But faced with Ling’s immediacy and person here, he looks bolstered. “You and Kain should come. Dinner and drinks - more than just Lemon Death now. Now there’s Cherry Death.” Shaw beams, proudly plugging Isa’s latest moonshine. “I told Namiko, we should have a Date Death. Like ‘Date With Death’? But, she decided no, wasn’t in season.” He shrugs helplessly. What can you do.

Ling's eyebrow quirks up slowly as Luther goes on and on, arms folding across her chest. "Shaw. Stop." She stares him in the eye for a long moment. She holds up one finger, looking as unamused as she ever does. "Kain is living his own life," she reiterates. "I have my doubts that he would be interested in such a little get together. I doubt he wants to confront…" Her gaze is distant for a moment, a hand moving up to around her heart, before tracing the chain of a necklace up to her neck. "The memories." Her eyes go half lidded, remembering Richard and Peyton in that moment.

"Nor, truthfully, do I." Eyes open full again, pupils locking into his as she holds up a second finger. "I have no stomach for adventure anymore. Not unless it's going to pay me enough to be worth the trouble. And…" She lets out a rueful chuckle, shaking her head. "Being with you and Isa is nothing but." And for once, Ling doesn't mean that as an insult.

Both fingers fold back in, and her arms falls to her side. "…but I'll at least stop by. For old time's sake." She may not want to confront those memories, but she doesn't want to throw them away either.

The dead-on stare from Ling captures Shaw’s verbosity, trapping it in silence. The man stills, and between the supposition of Kain’s wishes and reminders of years-long memories of being on the run, looks chastised. He swallows down the rest of the enthusiasm before it virtually belches out of him, as discomforting as it is. “But—” he starts to protest on the end of the comment that she’s not wanting any further adventures with him and Isa.

But since she mentions that she’ll stop by, the protest also gets swallowed away back into Shaw and he musters a small smile for the most minor victory. His head bobs with an equally small, agreeable nod. “Yes, yes you must come by,” presses the man of his initial invitation. “No adventures, no trouble. Familial faces. Familiar faces.”

Though thusly reminded, Shaw adds in fleeting afterthoughts, “Peyton is a teacher here.” Here in this timeline that is, the clairvoyant is not gone. “And Richard is rich. And married to Elisabeth. Their wedding was nice. Sorry you missed it, although, it was really a surprise.” He almost starts to ramble off again before he catches the expression on Ling’s resting face and fades off again to only repeat, “You should stop by. Yamagato has so much to do. Like ‘old’ New York. Say you’ll come?”

Ling stares off into the distance for a long moment. "I knew about Richard," she says quietly. A hand rises to grip at the necklace around her neck. Peyton's necklace, a few timelines removed. "But not… Peyton." She is quiet for a moment, that particular memory weighing heavily on her - and for once it shows in her weary expression, a frown forming as she hangs her head.

Such physical manifestation of her grief is short lived, though. She takes a deep breath and lets her shoulders rise as she looks over at Shaw. "So am I. I suppose I should have looked harder when I arrived. But… when I arrived where we were supposed to, with no one else in tow… Well. That seemed like the end of it."

She stares off into the distance again, before a small smile forms on her lips - a genuine one, rather than her past brand of sadism. "I will talk to Kain. I am sure he would enjoy seeing all of you again. Perhaps we can get together on his boat. Or… something akin to that." The idea of setting foot in Yamagato seems strange to her, particularly given her state of registration.

The man’s smile widens at seeing and hearing Ling’s general acceptance. Shaw pats his hands down his person, pulls out a wallet and slips out a small business card which he holds out. The name Isabelle Wesley-Khan and her title and Yamagato company contact info are on it. “It’s okay, we were in Kansas. But we’re not in Kansas anymore,” remarks Shaw, circling back to that memory of when they landed.

More importantly, he considers logistics, “If Kain thinks it won’t be too much trouble. We could go to him. But even shrimp boat captains should come ashore once in a while. Have something more than just shrimp to eat.” Shaw nods, solid logic in his mind.

A quick check of his watch and a glance back in through the windows of the deli, then back to Ling. “Even if Kain doesn’t want to come, we can bring him leftovers,” he proposes. “But he will not want to miss it.” Of that, Shaw is pretty certain. “Call Isa when you have him. She’ll be glad. We’ll finally get to pay the tab at K-Mart.” And for that reference, Shaw looks even more pleased as punch.

"If only this were The Wizard of Oz," Ling remarks flatly. Arms cross, and she looks back to the deli, the owner waving her in from inside. A heavy sigh escapes her lips. "I would be lying if I said the idea of getting together again, without the pressure of everything and out in the sun wasn't appealing," she reiterates. "I hope Kain will feel the same."

Dropping her cigarette to the ground, she snuffs it under her heel. "He will never turn down having a tab paid, after all."

She can't help but smile at that, just like Shaw. She hides it quickly, though, turning back to the door, a hand against the handle as she stops.

"I'll be in contact, Shaw."

And with that, she's gone. At least this time, they know where she's going.

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