Season of Thanks/Season of Grief


asi4_icon.gif avi2_icon.gif devon5_icon.gif elliot_icon.gif francis_icon.gif huruma2_icon.gif megan3_icon.gif marthe_icon.gif rue4_icon.gif scott_icon.gif wright_icon.gif

Scene Title Season of Thanks/Season of Grief
Synopsis While it's important to honor what was lost, it's better to be grateful for what remains.
Date November 26, 2020

The Bastion

The galley of the Bastion has not been decorated quite so warmly since… Well, since before Huruma took over the decor. Garlands of autumn leaves festoon the exposed piping, twining around the metal cylinders and dangling where they disappear into the walls, like their fall from bough to floor has been captured in time. Warm white lights frame every window and doorway, their steady shine adding to the ambiance.

In one corner stands a table with faux-crystal drinking glasses and two punch bowls. While both cider concoctions have been jazzed up with extra ingredients like cinnamon, fresh apple slices or maple syrup, an empty bottle of rye sits next to one bowl to indicate which of them is more festive.

The counter along the back wall of the room is home to the main event. An almost absurdly large turkey takes center stage on its platter, complemented by stuffing, potatoes both mashed and sweet, corn, dinner rolls, green bean casserole, and cranberry sauce. There’s also bread if anyone wants to make theirs a turkey sandwich, next to a dish of butter that’s soft enough to actually spread, and a boat of gravy.

Spread among the holiday staples are smaller dishes of less-traditional fare. Long, whole sweet sausages roasted together with green and purple grapes. Pears, caramelized and golden, baked in blackberry jam and honey. Strips of bacon, candied with brown sugar and coated in dark chocolate. A medley of roasted root vegetables and whole apples is piled around the turkey.

Dessert hasn’t been forgotten about, of course. There’s pumpkin pie, carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, a cherry pie, and tulip-shaped parfait bowls filled with chocolate mousse and topped with whipped cream.

No grand banquet table has been set up for this event. Despite the clearly massive amount of effort that must have gone into coordinating the spread, the atmosphere is kept casual. Plates and cutlery are set out with partygoers encouraged to graze as they please. Want to pile up your plate? Go for it. Rather just snack a little? That’s great, too.

All are welcome to participate in whatever way feels most comfortable to them.

There’s really no traditional music for this particular holiday, so jazz instrumentals are the order of the day. Something mellow to drift in the background and provide a pleasant placeholder when there’s inevitably a lull in conversations.

Rumor hasn’t darkened the halls of the Bastion since she cleaned out her room back in March, but here she is, admiring her handiwork with a glass of cider in her hand. Never one to miss an opportunity to dress up, she wears a strapless cocktail dress of orange-red taffeta, adorned with a bow just above her right hip. The long ends of it trail to about her mid-thigh, while the skirt’s hem falls just below that and just above the knee. Her red curls are worn loose, nearly down to the middle of her back now, and a crown of fall leaves of brilliant red, harvest gold, lush green, and warm brown sits atop her head.

“This looks nice, right?” Rue gives a nervous glance to her partner in all this effort. “They’re going to like it, aren’t they?” She’s been on edge since they walked in the door, for all that she hasn’t seen another soul since they arrived and she started decorating. They were granted the space to work, because none of this was done easily.

But it does look as though it was all done well, so that has to count for something.

“Everything looks warm and welcoming and cozy. I’m sure everyone will love it,” Elliot responds. He stands before the buffet, making minor alterations to placement, last minute garnishes to dishes. His suit is purposefully dishevelled, magenta tie loose, cuffs turned up from working at the stove. Cyan sneakers below pleated black dress pants.

He’s been generous, nay, magnanimous with this meal, going out of his way to keep everything accessible to a less adventurous palate. Even the cider hasn’t been altered too badly; no sense driving people to drink just because they don’t like spicy apple cider. Few hounds require encouragement to drink. He saved the spicy for the fresh cranberry sauce.

“Oh, fuck, I hope so.” It isn’t like Rue to look so anxious. She’s faced down hulking hunter bots armed only with a pistol. Bouncing briefly on the balls of her feet, she makes the decision to cross where Elliot’s standing, the soft soles of her black ballet flats scuffing quietly over the hard floor.

Resting a hand along either side of his neck, her thumbs brushing over his jawline, Rue takes a moment just to have her forehead against his, like she might siphon some of his confidence through his proximity. Then she presses a kiss to his mouth, slow and lingering, but ultimately chaste. “Thank you,” she murmurs, patting his cheek once before stepping back again. Footsteps start to grow in volume, headed their direction as Rue drops her hands to her sides again, now resolute.

“Let’s fuck this party in the mouth.”

“No, no, it wasn’t a camel. That’s the joke.” Francis Harkness’ voice can be heard coming down the hall to the galley before he’s seen. He’s a loud talker. “It was a mule with a swayback. Right? So we’re… I don’t know, eight miles outside Grand Tunis, lost in the middle of the desert, and I keep calling this thing a camel.”

Avi Epstein and Francis emerge from the hallway, the younger of the pair walking backwards and gesturing in horse-shaped motions with both hands to a begrudgingly captive audience. Avi sidesteps around Francis once there’s room to, and Francis just keep following him and talking.

“So the guide I’m with keeps correcting me,” Francis continues. “Is mule,” he quotes. “Like we had anything worse to be worrying about carrying that many explosives on a pack mule!”

Francis,” Avi says, pausing in mid-stride and shutting his eyes. Francis pauses his storytelling, one brow raised. “Please stop ruining Thanksgiving.

Francis lifts his hands in surrender, stepping back and ambling his way toward the refrigerator instead. It’s right around then that Scott comes in from the stairs entrance, scrubbing his hands with an oil-stained rag.

“Cam heads are cracked, boss.” Scott says over to Avi, who lowers his head into one hand. “Sorry, short of replacing the engine entirely I think the old girl’s driven her last mile. I can take her over to the salvage yard on a tow after you get your stuff out.”

Awesome,” Avi says, throwing himself down into a seat at the table where he leans back and drags his hands down his face. “Great. Sure.”

“Uh-oh, hide all of the somebody-else’s-labelled-lunch,” Elliot says quietly to Rue as people begin to trickle into the room, “Francis is here.”

Rue bites the inside of her lip and widens her eyes at Elliot, holding in a laugh. “Stop,” she chides, without any real desire for him to actually do that.

There's something to be said when Huruma gets a surprise. Her arrival in the lounge is from the avenue of the front door, a coolness calming down in her wake, dissipating without a fight. Decoration is one thing – and it's lovely, given the way her expression shifts – but the spread is another.

Huruma's gaze settles on the array set out and immediately raises a brow, absently peeling out of her coat. Fitted jeans, a low-cut pomegranate sweater, nothing quite as catching as Rue and her festiveness save for the weight of dusky gold beads around her neck and subtle metallic shade at her eyes.

"How many people are we expecting, exactly…?" Touch baffled, touch impressed, Huruma makes her way over to Elliot and Rue, in turn giving them the greeting of a shoulder hug and a cheek-kiss. Must be feeling particularly friendly today, though she could have been pregaming just a tad, with that smooth drawl of hers settled comfortably in her chest with a laugh of equal quality. "A lovely job. Thank you."

Behind Huruma, arms folded, Asi Tetsuyama lingers in the doorway. She has little frame of reference for the type of holiday they're about to enjoy, or how typical this is of it. But to the taller woman's surprise, she offers up, "Well, a proper cornucopia is overflowing… is it not?" Her study ends there, opting to come to a decision for herself rather than take anyone's lead.

She manages a thin smile to Rue that doesn't actually reach her eyes as she moves past, finding the spiked punch. A single glass is poured, but it proves to not be for her.

Asi sets down the punch for Avi, nudging it clearly in front of him. "Cheer up or I Will ask them to put on Christmas music," she suggests in a wry murmur, then leaves him to stew in his decision. As she understands it, Christmas music before December is considered a cardinal sin by some. Given Avi's general scowl of an attitude and outlook, she suspects he may be of the crowd.

She turns away to enjoy the streamers of sundown making their way through the tall windows, heading back to the table for what she wants. In a total embrace of the less-refined culture she finds herself in, she takes a test bite of the candy-coated bacon right away after picking it up. Her brows lift and she announces, "Elliot, I have a birthday request." Asi waves the half of the bacon piece left very visibly before she sets about making herself a proper plate.

Elliot returns Huruma’s hug, though he leaves off returning the kiss. “Glad you could make it,” he says. “There is certainly too much food, even when accounting for all potential Might Shows. There are to-go containers under the table. Feel free to take as much as you can carry.”

Wright enters the room just behind Marthe, taking their winter coats to hang in the entryway. Wright has kept her look simple today, a blue-gray and burgundy suit jacket over a collarless white shirt, black pants and heeled leather boots. Marthe attempts to off-set some of their height difference with high heels, and stands out in a red dress faintly patterned with white.

The pair joins Elliot, Rue, and Huruma for an exchange of hugs and hellos, though there is only a smile and short nod exchanged by Elliot and Marthe. “Everything looks wonderful,” Wright exclaims to Rue as though she hasn’t seen it all already. Today is a pretending-to-not-be-linked day for her and Elliot, providing space for each to enjoy the company of their significant others.

Rue pulls Huruma into a proper hug, rather than letting her get away with the less committed arm wrapped around her shoulders. The kiss to the cheek is also returned. "Elliot has really outdone himself. I suspect we'll be eating turkey for days," she chuckles quietly, but it's not remotely meant to be a complaint. Elliot's cooking is a treat for her, even when it's "just" leftovers.

But there's an undercurrent there of nervousness through it all that Huruma can feel keenly from Rue. As well as hurt feelings to not be acknowledged by some of her former crewmates. The tepid smile from Asi did nothing to help.

But the arrival of Marthe and Wright help lift her spirits somewhat. Even if no one here wanted her around (which she knows well is not the case, not to worry), as long as they manage to enjoy themselves, that will be mission accomplished enough.

"Good to see you," Rue greets genuinely. There's a hug for each of the women. Wright is an old friend, after all, and Marthe is her chosen, so that makes her friend enough for her. Having noted the distance between her and Elliot, she's resolved to prove some sort of acceptance. Ultimately, it's likely unwarranted and misplaced as a notion. "I love that dress. It really suits you."

Wright's praise makes Rue practically glow. Relief floods through her emotional state, even if she doesn't let it show. "Thanks, Trace! I thought it would brighten things up a little to get in the spirit." She pats Wright on the arm. "Excuse me. I need to go harass someone."

Rue makes her way to the fridge and, subsequently, Francis. "The fuck you think you're doing, you fucking card sharp?" she asks, but with nothing but good-natured teasing in her tone. "Get outta there." But there's another spike of negative feelings from her as she tries to build this bridge over what she perceives as a gap. She's afraid of rejection.

Elliot leaves Wright and Marthe to get drinks for themselves and meanders after Rue. When she calls out to Francis he stops in his tracks.

Even the littlest movement can draw the eyes away, keep a mark off-track. His hands—not his hands—flash over the top of a cardboard box, tented red Bicycle playing cards rearranged in mesmerising patterns. The twitch of a finger drawing the eye away from the left hand where one card is stacked atop another.

Elliot glances around, hoping he catches himself before anyone notices it and continues walking. He leans against the wall within range of Rue, silently, to support her should Francis feel the need to be an asshole.

“Nobody likes the mule story.” Francis grouses to Rue, stepping back and resting his hip against the kitchen island, arms crossed.

“That’s because it ends with the mule exploding,” Avi says with hands over his face. “And you tell it every time we get a new member.” He says through his teeth, then brandishes a hand at Elliot and Wright. “They’re not even new! They’ve heard the story!

Asi hadn’t.” Francis says with a rise of his brows, looking over his shoulder to Avi. “And now you spoiled the ending.”

“They were hauling explosives. Francis blew up a mule. It was raining bits. There’s a rain in the desert punchline.” Avi rambles off the relevant parts to Asi, running one hand through his hair as he does. “There.

Francis frowns, then rolls his eyes and mumbles, “It’s a good story.”

“You all are gonna give me fuckin’ indigestion,” Scott says with a shake of his head, washing his hands in the kitchen sink. “Lancaster, can you get me a beer? Whatever’s in reach.”

"If the story was for me," Asi says over her shoulder from the buffet line, "Then why were you telling Obscene over there instead of hounding me with that appetite-destroying tale? I'm a captive audience, Harkness, there's only so many places to get food."

She gives him a look over that same shoulder that strongly encourages him to not find another disgusting tale to start on. They're about to eat. It's the holidays, Francis. Afterward, she looks over to Scott and gives him a small shake of her head.

"Would anyone like to see if they can trick me into some bullshit Thanksgiving tradition?" A cup of the spiked punch poured for herself now, Asi begins making her way back to one of the tables. WIth a deadpan kind of mirth, she suggests, "There's only endless hatred in store for you should you succeed in making me believe it's real." It's normally like her to be this present, this loud, but maybe she knows when it's good to provide a distraction from the other less-well-meaning sourpusses in the room.

When she sets her plate down, she quirks one eyebrow high in her dare.

"More than enough is good." Huruma murmurs to Rue before she gets out of earshot, a hand lingering a moment on the redhead's shoulder. Nervous is fine, she's around if you need a breather.

If only for a few minutes, the banter feels… well, unchanged. The ghostly shade of Huruma's eyes travels after the trickle of familiarity in the room, both within sight and not. It is this snapshot which she keeps, trapping it in the confines of her own mood ready to dip back into should she need to. Hopefully not. What she wants is this. Just for a bit, even if it spirals into chaos so much like so many other get-togethers. That's what the Hounds do.

"Eat until you're sick isn't really so much a tradition," Huruma drawls, eyes lazy in departure from Asi to the drinks, where she pours herself a cupful of Rue's brewing. "Some people hold marathons." Turning away from the table, she starts a casual browsing, "What's the point of gluttony if you try to repent afterwards?"

“Sir,” Wright says as she sits at Avi’s table. After pulling out a chair for Marthe. “You remember the missus.” Jovial, earnest.

“Avi, It’s good to see you,” Marthe says with genuine mirth. She sets her cider, non-alcoholic, on the table along with a plate of various gathered appetizers.

“I’m assuming,” Wright continues with a glimmer in her eye that draws Avi’s memory back to the shadiest, the cleverest of her and Elliot’s youthful hijinks, “That this newbie,” she jerks her head toward Francis, “Knows about the Kill Devil Hills event.” So it’s not a prank then, it’s embarrassing for Avi.

Across the room Elliot expresses a ripple of a smile before falling back into the lethargy of a co-conspirator, saying, “Wright. You said we wouldn’t bring this up again. That horse has been beaten beyond death. She deserves to rest.”

Out in the hallway, the familiar silhouette of Devon enters the frame of the doorway. He lingers, just outside, watching the gathering within. The invitation was received, but to look his way would show he hadn't planned on attending. Dressed for work rather than a party, in duty pants and a polo shirt, though he's not officially scheduled anywhere. But he'd decided to glance in for a moment.

It brings a brief grin to his face to see the camaraderie, all the Hounds rubbing each other, the tall tales that are often better than the real thing. He'd been a fan of the mule story himself, though he'd rarely say so. But to see everyone in the same room again brings back some good memories.

His arms fold over his chest as Elliot and Wright ply into a legend of their own. And as he listens, he takes the few steps forward to lean a shoulder against the doorframe. Instead of engaging directly, some deeply buried reluctance to join the scene holding him back, he tracks the collaboration with interest in where it's going.

Not far behind Devon, another form pauses at the door as well. Megan promised she'd be here. She hasn't broken her promise, she's just a bit later than she'd expected. Dressed in a simple pair of comfortable khaki pants topped by a hunter green sweater, the woman still cuts a lovely figure though her copper hair is shading to a white-streaked pale strawberry these days instead of the fiery auburn some remember. "Ohboy," she murmurs behind Devon. Glancing at the young man, she smiles at him and adds, "I see Francis is already at it." Because Scott and Avi are already giving Harkness the Younger the Look of Damnation.

As she slips her arms from the fleece-lined jacket she's wearing, Meg teases Devon easily, "Anybody pulled out the darts yet? If they do, run." Her blue eyes skim the expanding group, noting how many of the faces she knows and interested in the ones she's not so familiar with.

Rue noticed Elliot’s brief (and metaphorical) stumble earlier, but she knows well his capability to recover from those moments on his own, so drawing attention to it seemed an unkind thing to do. She can ask him later, if they have a quiet moment, if there’s anything he needs. He also knows her well enough by now to know he only needs to ask.

“The fuckin’ mule story? C’mon, you’ve gotta get some better material, Frankie.” But Rue nudges Francis’ arm gently with her elbow and flashes him the ghost of a smile, saying in a lower voice meant just to be heard by him. “I think it’s funny every time,” she confides. “Good to see you.” Even if he does cheat at cards.

For Harkness the Elder, Rue places her free hand over her heart and presses there as if to stanch the bleeding from this wound he’s inflicted. “I slave a whole five minutes over a cold punch bowl and you want a beer?” She rolls her eyes and shakes her head to signify her disappointment. “I’m grabbing you a fucking IPA,” she warns as she pulls open the fridge.

She does not, in fact, hand him an IPA. Lancaster knows the drink preferences of every single Hound, and she’s not about to let anyone come away from this party disappointed in the offerings if she can help it. “Here.” The bottle is set down on the counter for Scott to take once he’s dried his hands. “Sounds like Megan just got here,” she tells him under her breath. She hasn’t obtained visual confirmation of this yet, or she’d know that Devon’s standing there with the nurse at the doorway.

And the ease she was beginning to slip into crumbles away when she does catch sight of –the person who thinks he’s– Devon. Rue goes still for a moment, then turns suddenly as if she’s just remembered she needs to shut the fridge. Elliot sees in her posture what Huruma feels in the air, that twist of guilt in her stomach. It’s then that she realizes she has no drink of her own, providing her with a convenient excuse to head over to where she can face the wall and no one else for a moment while she fetches herself one of those small cups of punch and shoves her negative thoughts and feelings back into the cage they escaped from.

“You mind your own business,” Scott says gently under his breath to Rue with a wry smile. Though, slowly but surely, he makes his way straight over to where Megan is, offering her a wordless smile and a rise of his brows in greeting. Theirs was a subtler dance, and one that the rest of the Hounds had no business knowing all the steps of, or how long into the night they danced.

Distracted as he is, Avi looks up at Wright and Marthe from his hands with an awkward smile. Avi putting on airs of normalcy for family-members of the unit is a little bit like putting peanut-butter in a horse’s mouth to make it look like it’s talking. But he has decades of practice being a talking horse.

“I remember you,” Avi says with a side-long look to Marthe, warm smile coming along with it. “I don’t hear Corporal Ames stomping around. Did she have a civil revolt to put down?” There’s a ghost of a smile there, though it’s a genuine one as far as Huruma can tell. As much as he says he doesn’t, Avi has a soft spot for kids. Maybe it’s because he’s buried so many of his own.

Nearby, Francis Harkness pays no mind to his father’s late-life romance or Avi’s own social dance. Instead he’s zeroing in on Wright with one brow lifted. He doesn’t join the table, but instead remains propped up at the island nearby, back resting against it, elbow propped up on the counter, ankles crossed. He teleports the cap off of his beer with a crackle-snap of light and tips it back.

“Okay, okay.” Francis looks over at Devon, giving him a brief nod of greeting, then looks over to Wright, then Elliot. “The fuck is Kill Devil Hills?”

“Jesus Christ,” Avi mumbles and scrubs one hand over his face. Scott laughs, looking over at Megan before snorting in amusement.

“Does everyone know?” Francis asks with a look around the room. “Okay– c’mon. Spill.”

For better or worse, it's not Asi directly who has her leg pulled. Knowing very well just who is involved in the tale-telling, though, she slows in her savoring of the first few bites of her meal, warily regarding the telling of it.

The hype of it in particular.

It's to Devon she looks, surreptitiously sending him a quiet look for verification as to what kind of event of 'event' this might be. She's in no mood to ruin the fun, but she's also not the kind to let herself be lead on.

“Commandant Ames is thankfully occupied elsewhere,” Marthe tells Avi. “Though she’s likely leading a civil revolt there, the little rabble-rouser.”

“Okay so,” Wright jumps into the tale happily, “We’re in North Carolina, visiting the Wright Brothers National Memorial.”

“We were not,” Elliot adds helpfully.

“Kill Devil Hills,” Wright continues unfazed, “Is a terrible place, tactically speaking. Just one postage-stamp town on a weirdly long strip of land arcing into the ocean, the Outer Banks. Very easy to get pinned in to the north and south unless you have a boat. Also it was foggy as fuck, and we’d been dogged on foot east through a nature preserve. When we hit the inside of the Banks we came across a motorboat that could take us to the mainland, praise fuck.”

“We had to take a beached rowboat out to it,” she continues. A glimmer of amusement begins to appear in her eye. “We started hearing people call out from the shore as we were lining up with the motorboat. The fog cleared just enough to give a guy on the beach line of sight to us, and he started shooting.”

Wright is deep into the story, remembering it with Elliot through both of their perspectives and both are laughing voicelessly. Wright gets to her favorite part. “So, Avi draws a bead on him just as a wave passes through us and then the motorboat, so it lifts the boat directly into Avi’s line of fire and he plugs the fucking motor square through the gas tank. Really a one-in-a-million shot. So the gas ignites, and the motor is belching fire out both sides, making it clear to people who aren’t in the fog where we are. Elliot was holding the boat when it happened, so he almost went overboard and got plunged from head to torso in the wave.”

“And that’s the story of how Avi had to row a boat for miles through the fog while refusing to let us help because he was too angry.”

“No kidding,” Devon murmurs a reply to Megan as she passes. He's been to enough of these gatherings. Still, the smirk that chases his words is amused. He straightens, maybe intending to join the company in the galley, or to get a better take on the tale being woven. For Francis’ sake, he almost adds to Elliot and Wright’s story. Everyone knows about Kill Devil Hills. But he never makes it that far.

He catches Rue’s initial reaction during a pass. He doesn't need to see the rest to interpret what he already knows. His was the invitation that shouldn't be, just like himself.

As he looks away, Asi catches his eye with her question. An empty grin and vague shrug are used for an answer. Elliot and Wright are sharing one of their famous fish stories, but he's not going to spoil it. He even follows up with a redirect by looking to the pair and their captive audience, but he doesn't stay to hear the end.

Devon turns out of the doorway and into the hall as Wright gets to the meat of the tale, slipping away just as subtly as when he'd arrived.

It's lovely in the room, and Megan admires the work that went into the set-up. It's been a long time since she did anything but work on the holidays, allowing those with families to have those days instead of taking time off herself. She's hanging up her jacket as the story begins, her lips quirking into a grin while she shakes her head. "This one has to be better than the camel," she observes under her breath to Devon, a brief touch on the young man's elbow as she slips past him. The wordless support is simply her – she knows he's been a little 'off' lately but they don't know each other well enough for her to really say anything.

Blue eyes flicker across the room to her housemate and Megan nods a casual greeting. I made it, see?? But when Scott approaches, she turns her eyes to him and offers an easy smile as he snorts out that laugh. "That chuckle never bodes well," she murmurs, thoroughly amused. The stories around this place are kind of epic, and this is one she hasn't heard either – she just doesn't mention it aloud. "Is that for me?" she asks cheekily.

The passing closed smile for Megan lingers even as Scott goes to greet her too; storytime gives Huruma ample opportunity to fill a plate without impediment. Once that's done it's Devon who catches her eye; she won't try to stop him, but the fact he made it this far says much for how far he's actually come.

Rather than call more attention to him, he'll feel that blanketing hand of Huruma's ability at the back of his mind, as reassuring a hand as the real one is. If he wants to come back, she's there. But… she understands his hesitance all the same.

The story closes and Huruma's low laugh is audible as she sits down on the lounge sofa, plate on the endtable, eyes alighting on Wright, then Francis and Asi.

"I wasn't there, but I've always thought that it sounded about right. Then again, I've never checked–" The curiosity doesn't form a question, only an expectant look fixed on Avi; helpfully, further words don't come, mouth instead busy with the end of a fork. Tell it straight.

“You left out the doubly-humiliating part,” Avi goes on to note without looking up from a spot in the table that has his attention fixed, “of when we finally got to shore… Gitelman had been there the whole fucking time, just watching us from a fucking satellite. The whole time. So she’s just got this smug as fuck look on her face– ”

“Isn’t that just her everyday face?” Francis chimes in.

“–and just turns on her heels and walks off when we get to shore.” Avi continues, unphased. “It was a bag of laughs. Everyone had a great time.” They most assuredly did not.

Scott, who had only been partly listening to the story, hands his beer off to Megan with a sly smile that all but says good game. Her request had been both subtle and polite, playing well off of Scott’s predilections. There’s plenty of other beer, but there’s only so many opportunities in a day to offer a kindness to a special someone.

“You ask me,” Scott says, turning away from the beer held out to Megan to address the others, “I like that we have a few stories here and there that don’t leave us quiet and staring into our drinks. They might be few and far between, but they always bring a goddamn smile t’my face.”

“So all this was before the end of the war.” Francis says with a shift of his attention from Elliot to his father and back. “Because I didn’t see much of the war. What with being in the sandbox.” He offers for Asi’s context. “But… I’ve always been wondering about what happened at Raven Rock.”

“Alright that’s enough.” Avi says as he slowly stands up from his seat at the mention of the closing battle of the Civil War. There were five members of Wolfhound at Raven Rock on the day President Mitchell was apprehended and the war ended. Only one of them is still standing in this room. Hana, Claire, Curtis, Francois – all gone in one way or another. All except Avi.

“Does any of this shit have bacon in it?” Avi asks as he looks around the kitchen, pivoting to try and make sure he isn’t missing any of the food.

"The bacon has bacon in it," Asi lifts her voice to say, the epitome of helpfulness. Her eyes go to the door, to the vacancy of the doorway leaner, and then move on. She's not in the business of forcing anyone to be where they don't want to unless she's getting paid significantly for it.

Surprise of surprises, though, the story actually appeared to be a real one and not a snipe tale. Somehow, she had figured it might be, given those weaving said tale.

"Huruma," Asi interjects before Francis has room to balk. "Do you have any stories?"

While Wright recounts a yarn in which she was not embarrassed, Elliot ponders Rue’s reaction to Devon, and splits his attention with Wright’s to see him leave from where she’s seated. While they might be pretending to not be linked today, it’s still automatic to reach out and share brief snippets. He still laughs at the right parts of the narrative, looks chagrined at the end, but his mind is elsewhere. With Francis’s inability to read social cues resulting in a convenient break in attention, Elliot walks to the door.

He enters the hallway, but only far enough not to set off Devon’s ‘being followed down the hallway’ sensors. He can see Devon’s dressed in a way that tells people he’s got work to do, even if he doesn’t. And he’s keenly aware of his own history with skittishness at large functions in the old days. He calls out in a way that no one else at the gathering will hear. “You’re welcome to stay,” he says. “Or if you’re not feeling it I can put together a heaping plate of too much food for you. There’s so much food.” You’d be doing me a favor, really.

Devon’s immediate departure from the party sends another pang of guilt through Rue. She’s glad she opted not to be part of the link today, so her strong emotional reactions aren’t a damper on Elliot or Wright. She knew coming back to the Bastion after months without contact would be hard. Hearing the old stories is nice, though. Even the ones that hurt.

It’s with this in mind that Rue puts together two glasses of her cider cocktail, walking one over to Francis and all but pushing it into his hands. “Here,” she murmurs. “Word of advice: Let people volunteer their own stories. Ask for the others when they’re on the shooting range. Gives them a target other than you.” There’s a grin she offers for this, but it doesn’t reach her eyes, even if it seems like it just skipped over them to raise one brow instead.

Making her way toward the counter next, she sets the second serving down only so she can grab a plate and load it up with bacon, vegetables, and turkey. Now that she’s dished up, she can pick up the glass again. Moving back toward the table, she meets Avi halfway and wordlessly passes both food and drink to him, glancing up to look at him, but not quite meeting his eyes. This is as close as Rumor’s going to get to breaking the ice, it seems.

In the hallway, Devon hasn't gotten too far away before his place in the doorway has been refilled. It's the shift in the sound that finds its way out of the galley is enough to alert him to Elliot's presence even before the other man speaks. That vague muffling draws a backward look, but until Elliot actually speaks, it seems Dev might keep walking.

“Yeah.” His answer lacks commitment, but he doesn't begin walking again. A small shift in his attention brings the doorway into focus. For just a beat, he stares like he might see through the walls, past Elliot to the gathering inside. Then Devon’s focus returns to the other Hound. “Yeah, Rue’s… I think she should reconnect with the rest of the team without…” Without him there as a reminder. “I mean that's kind of why this came together, right?”

Avi's artful and blatant dodging of Francis' interest in Raven Rock is unsurprising. Huruma idles in watching the rest of the room, brought back out by the sound of her name. She turns her eyes to Asi then, the pale of them shaded by the hood of eyelids. The dark woman arches a brow towards her and takes up her drink a moment before deciding how to answer.

"I have a lot of stories, darling." It's enough to coax a small laugh out of her, a small humored nod next. "I know what you want though." Huruma sits up straighter, and finally her gaze moves further across the room past Asi to Megan. The look could mean literally any number of things, but in those few seconds the redhead will absolutely realize that it's going to involve her somehow.

"Mm. In the latter months of the fighting, there were pockets of militia we needed to dislodge." Huruma hesitates, just for a second. "Ben, Megan and I were doing recon on the way to one of our encampments in Virginia, he went ahead at one point, trying to find reception on comms. Sooo, that leaves us to finish the recon."

"We found a camp with several covered trucks, decided that it would be better to take care of it then. Snuck in during the night, rewired and blocked up the engines. And just for good measure, left an explosive in one." Somehow that bodes nicely. "When morning came and they went to roll out, none of the trucks started, a few caught fire, but that explosive–" Huruma gestures with her hands, a spread of fingers in the air. "It blew the truck into the air, the blast easily a hundred feet of fire. First thing I said was 'how much explosive did you put in there?'" A moment's pause allows Megan to pick up if she'd like.

Megan is mid-swallow of the first sip of the bottle of beer she was handed as Huruma's eyes fall on her with that arch expression. Oh Gawd. the redhead manages to choke down her mouthful before she starts to laugh.

"Well, it wasn't my fault," she retorts, her chuckles getting a little harder as her face colors a deep rose. "I didn't know that you handed me a full block of the stuff!"

Dragging her hand down her face, her laughter is still shaking her shoulders. "Look, I rewired the starter wires in the primary vehicles, but by the time we got to the last one, people were moving around," she appeals to Avi for this one, trying not to look at Scott. He's the one who taught her just enough about engines years ago to be dangerous. "You said hook it to the ignition…"

She put a whole brick of C4 on a truck ignition????

If she could sink into the floor, Megan would do it. Blue eyes get wide and she looks at the others, imploring, "Cut me a little slack here! I'm a nurse, not a demolitions expert!"

“Okay Bones,” Scott says to Megan with a lopsided smile, stealing his beer back enough to take a sip before handing it back to her. He loiters by Megan’s side, listening to the story with an amused smile.

“You remember the time Demsky was green for a whole day because she had a migraine?” Scott asks with a side-eye to the others. It elicits a laugh and a shake of the head from Avi, who looks at the food and drink given to him by Rue, then the door to the hall. He makes a small face, setting both down on the counter before walking past Scott to the doorway Elliot and Devon had slipped out from.

Scott watches Avi’s departure, but then pointedly turns his focus back to the others so as to redirect their attention to him. “You must have a fun story or two, Tetsuyama.” Scott says with a nod in Asi’s direction. “You were with public security or something like that in Japan, right? Their FRONTLINE equivalent?” He raises a brow at the inquiry, challenging his tenuous understanding of her past.

Stepping into the doorway to the hall, Avi just watches the interaction between Devon and Elliot. His presence is rather purposefully announced by clomping footfalls and a creak of wood as he leans on the doorframe. “You kids forget where the food is?” He asks with a crooked smile, as if trying to goad them back inside. But there’s something more to it than that.

Avi may as well have pushed Wilby against Rue’s chest and pulled the trigger for the way his lack of acknowledgement – his apparent disdain – kills what hope she had for this to be a chance to reconnect. She can’t find joy in the recounting of their exploits. But she’s an actress, and she keeps her expression pleasant, presents the illusion that she’s enjoying her turn as hostess, however subdued she may be in comparison to the Rumor they knew before.

Pulling open the door to the fridge, Rue grabs another beer and takes a bottle opener to the cap before making her way to where Scott and Megan stand. She passes the chilled bottle to Scott with a small smile. Now they don’t have to share.

But maybe sharing was the point? Well, whatever. It’s too late to take back now. “It’s good to see you, Ms Young,” she says softly. “Please make sure you get something to eat. Elliot worked really hard on all this and he’s really outdone himself.” It deserves to be appreciated.

Her blue eyes drift to the hallway again and the cluster of men that she has complicated feelings about, each for vastly different reasons. “Please excuse me,” she begs off with another smile.

When Rue starts to make off in the opposite direction, bypassing the drinks, the food, and the conversation, it becomes clear she’s headed for the exit.

"I assumed you knew what 'put a block' meant. So partly my fault too." Huruma holds a hand to her chest, smirking over at Megan as she tries to sputter back from embarrassment. The laugh out of the empath isn't derisive, just entertained. It remains when Scott mentions Colette's colorful migraine, softening a touch as Avi seems to go fetch both men from the hall. She can feel them there, commiserating.

Huruma quiets herself with a bite of food, just in time to watch Rue casually make her way around the room, then out of the lounge. The others in the room can't see her, of course, but she can– and the dawdling of men who she passes.

As the floor is given to someone else, the searching limbs of Huruma's psychic field find a purchase on Rue; they pry apart flakes of her despair, replacing portions with a reassurance which could be turned into resolve, should she so choose. To the credit of the empath, Huruma also displays a flickering yearning of her own to Rue, easily felt as an emotion that doesn't belong to her. Something foreign, but walled, like a sign against a window.


Elliot turns to look over his shoulder at Avi, keeping his posture and tone casual. “No sir,” he says, “Just making sure I copied Devon on the invite.”

He turns back to Devon. She should reconnect with the rest of the team without what? he wonders, tucking that away. “Like I said,” he continues, “Huge amounts of food. And you can tell the story of the time you had to dig Wright out of a dumpster, she fucking loves that story.” He grins as he turns, nodding to Avi as he sidles past into the room.

Devon’s eyes slide past Elliot to Avi as the Major joins the hallway gathering next. It prompts a sigh, and he looks aside at the question. But he offers a, “No,” in echo of Elliot’s answer. No further excuses are given, every one of them more lame than the first anyway. Even the pretense of work to be done seems unacceptable now.

His weight leans like he's still planning to leave, though his feet haven't moved since Elliot had first called to him. A non committed nod is made at the other officer’s offer. A maybe.

But further movement, the almost crossing of paths when Rue slips through the doorway and starts opposite his own retreat severs indecision. It's replaced with the guilt of someone who survived in the place of others who should have. He gives a look to Avi, begging understanding, though whose he couldn't say. He also couldn't say exactly what spurs him to start after Rue, but it happens with sudden purposeful steps carrying him after his former teammate.

“Save me a plate,” Dev half mutters as he passes Avi.

“He’s an outdoor cat, comes and goes,” is Avi’s way of deflecting some of the attention away from Devon. There’s a brief look he shares with the Hound, and it becomes clear to Devon that Avi was covering his back in this. Their shared sin.

“C’mon,” Avi says as an aside to Elliot, clapping a friendly hand on his shoulder. “I’ve got a question for you, ‘cause I figure you’re new and might’ve seen if something was off.” There’s a conspiratorial tone in Avi’s voice as he gingerly moves to guide Elliot back into the kitchen. “I had a bottle of whiskey in my desk, back of the top drawer. Had about one swallow’s worth left in it. Now, I don’t think you had any reason t’fuck with it when my desk was getting gift-wrapped in enough aluminum foil to pick up the BBC from here… but maybe you saw something?”

By now, Rue’s recognized Huruma’s empathic nudges and this one she shakes her head to, as though she weren’t far enough down the hall that she’s unable to be seen by the person it’s intended for. She has to clench her fingers into fists to keep from breaking into a run.

"You handed me a block, I put the block," Megan retorts to Huruma on another chuckle, her face still pink. The drink handed to Scott by Rue and the welcome offered earn the redhead a smile. "It's really good to see you too," she murmurs to the other ginger sincerely. She watches the younger woman slip away as well and catches Huruma's eyes with a concerned expression that she hides quickly behind a gentle elbow to Scott's side. "Brat," she teases in a low voice. "You're showing our age, old man."

Instead, she turns her smile onto the rest of the group and adds her voice to Scott's to draw attention from the various fleeing members. "I'd love to hear some of your more… interesting moments," the redhead tells Asi with a smile.

Elliot manages to hide the dread of Avi pretending to be companionable. When the conversation turns more toward investigation than accusation, he relaxes. “Well, your desk being tin-foiled brings to mind how a monster mannequin head was duct-taped to the ceiling of my bunk a few weeks ago,” Elliot replies. “And I can’t imagine a use for a single sip of alcohol, seeing as I’m sober.”

He pauses as they head deeper into the feast hall. “That would have been the night of the Gala, for which I was present but technically not on duty. I would wonder who was present in the Bastion if that timeline matches up.” He scans the room, noticing Rue is no longer in sight.


Her footsteps are a muted thing over the hard floors of Bastion’s hallways. Unhurried as well, though that’s counter to her own desires. Rue Lancaster can’t flee the party she devised fast enough. She had held hope that it would be a chance to reconnect with the Hounds, but instead all she’s found are painful memories. The ghosts in the halls haunt her. Passing the door to Dearing’s quarters had been especially hard.

Once outside, she sidesteps from view of the doorway and tips her head back against the wall, breathing in lungfuls of chilled late fall air. It prickles on her bare skin, but she welcomes the unpleasantness of the sensation. It’s not worse than how she feels in the moment anyway.

Seeing Devon again… She can’t shake the guilt that comes with that. And that he too decided to just walk the other way… That had hurt in ways she hadn’t expected. Almost as bad as having Avi immediately turn away from her when she attempted to extend an olive branch.

Clenching her teeth together, her mouth drawn thin, she draws in and exhales three hard breaths through her nose. “Don’t you dare cry,” she growls at herself.


Devon followed at a distance, without calling out, unwilling to draw even more attention to either of them. All bets are off once he's cut through the doorway. He calls after her as he pushes past the door. But then two steps beyond the threshold brings him to a stop. Rue isn't still ahead of him.

His eyes track away from the building, following the obvious path to an old lot meant for parking half a block away, a bus stop further down. Brows furrow, guilt plaguing him – maybe even the brief appearance in the lounge was the wrong choice. Staying at Cat’s Cradle when he was less than welcomed was definitely one of his worst ideas, even with having good intentions.

Sighing, he turns round to return to the building. As Dev starts to cast a look in the less likely direction that Rue could have gone, the shadow just aside of the door catches his attention.

It was foolish enough to hope that he wouldn’t see her standing so near the door that she didn’t even entertain the notion, just used the time it took to get her proverbial house in order. A deep, steadying breath, a quick press of fingertips below eyes to check for unwelcome tears. The poker face doesn’t quite make it before he starts to turn.

Present.” Lest he think she might have had designs on remaining unnoticed. She’s at least straightened up from her lean, arms crossing under her chest. “That party’s for everybody, you know. Even for you.” Rue turns her face partly to the side, not quite enough to truly say she’s turned it away from Devon. “You should go back inside and have something to eat.”

“So should you.” He should leave it at that and go inside. But he doesn't move. Devon glances skyward then half way over his shoulder to give Rue her moment to regroup.

His hands push into his pants pockets, adopting that familiar slightly slouched pose that's somehow both confident and awkward. “You're just as much part of that family as anyone else,” he goes on. His eyes slant her way before his face follows. “So why'd you leave?”


Wright and Marthe make their way to the banquet table, lining their plates with a smattering of everything. Marthe takes a generous helping of the candied pears, subduing her reaction to seeing her personal favorite by turning to Wright and demanding her face be lowered for a light kiss on the cheek. Wright is more than happy to accommodate, and passes along her fresh memory of Marthe’s compliments to the chef. Elliot, happy but uncertain, manages to hide any outward display of those conflicting emotions.

It takes Asi a long moment to decide just what she means to say when the swapping of tales is turned back around on her. She finishes off the large bite of turkey she's taken, skimming the room as though the occupants might help her judge what kind of story would be best. "I don't really have war stories to pull from, but…"

"In the earlier days of the Mugai-Ryu," Asi begins, lying aside her plasticware to fold her arms on the table. "Our duty to the country and the boundaries for when we could be called were less codified than they are now. There was a brief period where we could be deployed for even suspected shinka-jin criminal activity, should members be nearby. Once, several teammates of mine were assigned as additional security to the Prime Minister during a particularly tense period, and–"

A scoff of a laugh leaves her, and she wonders how to handle this story without jumping to the very end; to handle it with just the right amount of panache to keep it short but full.

"We received a notification from the local police that they had been dispatched to investigate suspected, potentially aggressive activity. The cats in the nearby area were reported to be behaving oddly. Prowling, gathering in groups." Try as she might, she can't help but smile. The usually deadpan, occasionally cold woman tries her best to keep from laughing as she tells her story. "This being a tense period of high security, we're released to investigate."

"The cats are easy enough to find. They're noisy, and numerous. I had a drone with me, and we followed the herd of them as they continued to gather, all culminating in leading to the back yard of a certain home." Her jaw twinges as she tries to resist a smile. "It hits all the markers for that's odd in its own way, so we begin to head that way, when the back door opens."

"Out steps a child, maybe six or seven years old, with a large bowl in one arm. He takes these chunks of chicken and starts throwing them to the feral cats."

Maybe this story isn't actually funny at all, but it's hilarious to Asi. "There wasn't any Evolved activity at all. It was just a result of this child repeatedly feeding the neighborhood cats more and more treats every day for a month. He had not needed an ability, just bits of fish and chicken to cause something that only seemed impossible. The security detail for the Prime Minister had been put on alert for nothing other than some elderly pearlclutchers jumping at shadows."

With a wry twist of her lips into a smug smile of sorts, Asi looks up with a shrug of her shoulder. "Needless to say, some standards were better developed after that. But I believe that was the silliest call I was ever put on." Her attention wanders after that, and she drinks to mask the shift in her mood.

She might not have war stories, but there are other less pleasant tales she's avoided mentioning.

Huruma's eyes remain aimed at the middle distance rather than anyone in the room in the time before Asi takes her own turn at storytelling, fork toying on lower lip. For a moment she lets melancholy drift behind her eyes, and gives Rue the pressure of warmth before her ability coils away from Rue, skimming over Devon and lingering in the corridor like a spider clung to the ceiling.


Normally, Rue would deflect with a different question, or dismiss with a spat out fuck off. This time, she does neither of those things. “Because I finally made a mistake there was no way to fix.” Her voice doesn’t even get quieter when she says it. She even does the courtesy of turning to look at him properly after she has.

“They deserved better. And I can’t–” Rue’s voice breaks along with her composure. Her lip quivers, tears well up in her eyes, but she continues. “I can’t look at you and see a second chance. I can’t look at you and think even for a moment that it erases what happened to– to Devon.” She shakes her head quickly. “I can’t let you be him or what if I forgive myself? What if I make that mistake again?”

“What happened to Devon, to me, has nothing to do with what happened during that mission.” Devon doesn't look away this time, he can't. The loss of his self, the part of him who'd lived his life for the past year, had been hard. But losing one of the tightest friendships he'd made has been worse, a slow erosion at the foundation he's trying to maintain.

“I'm the one that fucked up, Rue. A year ago I made the wrong call and got blown to shit because of it.” He shakes his head at the memory, a blinking red light, the word Failsafe etched into the plate housing the explosive, Adam Monroe’s voice telling him he'd died. “That choice is what turned me into some… mad scientist’s experiment.”

“Look.” His own hurt and anger over the circumstance that have brought them to this point clench in the space between his throat and his chest. “I'm sorry Dearing died, and I'm sorry that I'm the one that made it out. But you're not the one at fault for any of it.”

Devon shakes his head, then angles a look up to catch Rue’s gaze. “You can't keep blaming yourself or holding yourself responsible for what happened. That mission… it was a clusterfuck that made Bullwhip seem like a cakewalk.”

The mention of her partner is what truly makes the redhead crumble. It’s hard to tell if she’s shaking more due to being underdressed for the cold or from her emotion.

Rue shakes her head emphatically, refusing to accept that she doesn’t deserve blame for this. “If I hadn’t gotten cocky, if Dearing hadn’t had to carry me because I nearly got myself killed–” She’s refused to play out any other scenario. A scenario in which she’d made all the right calls and still the unthinkable could have happened.


Megan's concern from moments ago is addressed by the idle, dismissive motion of her off-hand. It's fine. The empath allows herself to instead take in Asi's days with the Ryu. It is the amusement in the woman herself which rubs off in the beginning, the sensation of a secret joke. The punchline, in all its mundanity, is worth a laugh; even if Huruma's laugh starts with a small sputter thanks to her chewing.

"That– reminds me of the monkeys in Mexico. Voracious." Whatever that particular story is, she doesn't volunteer it; instead, she just fixes Avi and Elliot with a smirk, and clears her throat with a drink.

Avi has remained quiet on his return to the kitchen, unaware of the context behind Rue’s exit. Mention of monkeys has Avi changing the subject, but not so much as to drive the conversation, rather to drive a point home to those in the room albeit indirectly. It’s a calculated thing.

“Oh and I didn’t think you took it,” Avi says. A line which has little meaning for anyone other than Elliot who’d heard the conversation that came before. “The whiskey, I mean. Showed back up – magically – on my birthday. Which is ironic, given that it was a gift to me from my son on my… fuck… forty-eighth birthday?” Avi’s brows furrow, eyes become distant. While some of this may be a calculated show, the pang of guilt and loss Huruma feels is very real.

“Taylor uh,” Avi shakes his head and laughs, “he passed away the next year. I was saving the last of the whiskey for him when he got back from Afghanistan. So…” Avi slides his tongue across his teeth. “You know, just glad someone had the compassion to give it back and not drink it.”

Scott and Francis are dead silent by the time Avi’s done having his sidebar with Elliot. It becomes increasingly clear that Avi was indirectly addressing the whole room, which in itself implies he doesn’t know who the culprit of the prank was.

“Hey I’m– gonna get some of that ham.” Francis says with a flash of a smile as he noisily scoots his chair back to stand.

Megan was listening to Asi's tale with a smile, but Avi's words carry. And that kind of thing is something of an oh-shit moment, so when Francis of all people has the good sense to draw attention to himself (it's totally not good sense, she's sure), she too sails into that breach.

"For all their foibles, Avi, you've got fantastic people, for certain." She shoots the man a smile and then says brightly, "I think it's definitely time for a plate. Elliott, I understand you're the chef of all this? It smells heavenly."

With a glance at the man next to her, Megan turns toward the tables laden with food. Avoiding the awkward is a definite hope, even if the redhead is vaguely concerned that this room is way more emotionally fraught than she expected for a day like today.

Avi’s sudden slide into a deeply personal issue has Elliot stunned for a moment. Did Avi just feel something? In front of people? It’s strange enough to temper his mild anxiety of Rue suddenly being gone from the party. Wright helpfully tags a memory of her disappearance, which he streams, eyes growing distant then aggravated.

Well. “Sir,” Elliot says quietly, for Avi’s ears only, “If you see Rue again you may want to offer something in the way of an apology.” His tone carries only a fraction of the What the fuck, man that resounds in his mind, but he’s still surprised he lets even that much emotion show. “She’s trying.” If there’s any confusion as to what he means, Elliot turns his attention pointedly to the plate of food and the drink Avi left on the table.

Wright and Marthe return their laden plates to the table, Wright pausing to also look pointedly from Avi to Rue’s offering. She picks up the thread for Megan’s question. “It was certainly a group effort, and thank you.” she bobs with playful self-importance.

Elliot does turn to smile at Megan as he leaves Avi. “I’ll take credit for a meager sixty-five percent of what you see here,” he jokes. “I’m glad you could make it.”

Though interested in the paths of Devon and Rue, Huruma forces herself to recoil and instead sprawl those invisible strings out over the lounge. The finer details emerge, textures and memories of senses as the empath's focus rearranges. She watches Elliot and Avi with a keen eye, not that the others aren't privvy to the current events. Those details give her insight and a chance to vulture over Elliot's response curiously.


“I’m not sorry you survived,” she tells him, because he can’t keep blaming himself for that. “I’m sorry you didn’t both survive, but I’m not sorry you made it.” Rue steps forward and wraps her arms around the younger Hound tightly, one hand resting between his shoulders and the other settling over the blonde hair at the back of his head. “I’m so sorry. Dev, I’m so sorry.

As Rue steps into him, Devon’s arms are there to welcome her with a crushing, familial hug. Because they are family; regardless of if he’s wrong one, the experiment, he still began as the Devon that was lost at the start of last year. “A lot of things happened,” he gently points out after a quiet moment, allowing the apologies spoken and unspoken to settle around them. “And any changes to any choices anyone made could’ve still resulted in this outcome. None of it’s your fault. No one blames you. I don’t blame you.”

“Why not?” No matter how many times she hears it, Rue still can’t accept the idea that she might not be to blame for what happened to her team at the Ziggurat. Can barely comprehend it. She leans back so she can look at him through the blur of her tears. “I was so awful to you. How can you not blame me?”

“Yeah.” It wouldn't be fair for Devon to not allow that. The blame, the loathing, it was awful. “But you're an awful person.” It's delivered less than seriously, as a joke and in his usual way of breaking tension. He sobers after a second, brows furrowing. “You know that I wouldn't hold it against you.” Neither version of him would have.

Rue sniffles noisily and finally releases Devon from the vice grip that is her hug. “Shit. You aren’t the one who’s better at Mario Kart, are you?” If he won’t deflect with humor, then she will. She laughs weakly, rubbing under her eyes with the side of her first knuckle now that she’s taking the return train back from Sob City. It’s guilt that sees her tear her eyes away from him.

“You are you,” she defends him against the notion that he’s anybody else. “No matter what they did to you. No matter where your path diverged in the wood. You are you.” Not him. Because that implies he’s stepped into someone else’s shoes, when the reality is that he never left them.

“I’m sorry I ever made you think otherwise, Dev.” Checking to make sure there isn’t make-up smeared on her fingers to be fixed on her face – and there isn’t, thanks to the magic of waterproof liner and mascara – she tips her head toward the door. “You wanna go back to the party? It’s… actually fucking freezing out here,” in that strapless dress of hers and with that much leg exposed especially, “and I don’t have access to the building anymore.”

That part hadn’t been thought through when Rue beat her hasty escape.

“Yeah, I know.” Devon agrees easily, even shrugging like he no longer doubted that he's himself. He's had time to come to terms with it, with what had happened to him, to know how to mask and bury the lingering doubts and troubled feelings about his double life. And with the bridge between him and Rue seeming to be on the mend, hopefully things can really return to normal.

“I've always been the better player,” he points out as he approaches the door. Hands go back to his pockets, then reappear empty. “All those times you won? I let you.” He checks his back pockets, then tries the hip pockets again. “I thought you knew. Where is it…”

His expression turns puzzled, a pocket is pulled out, pushed in, and then he pats the larger cargo pockets at the sides of his legs. Devon’s look turns troubled when he doesn't seem to have his access card. “I… can't find it.” Worry creeps in as his eyes slant to Rue

and it holds hard and fast

for an eternity

and a day.

But before the other Hound can really panic and begin searching for her phone, Dev presses a hand to the reader. The bolt clacks free. And he pulls the door open to let her inside.

Bullshit!” Rue exclaims, letting her competitive spirit (the good-natured one) come out to dominate the other more complicated feelings. “I earned those wins fair and square, you punk. I bring those blue sparks!”

But then he’s searching his pockets and he’s coming up empty. “Oh, Dev. Damn it!” How can he not carry his key around? Then again, it’s not like he was expecting to be going outside when there’s a party inside.Fu–”

Rue’s mouth gapes and she lets out a frustrated sigh. It was in his hand the whole time. “You prankster,” she gripes affectionately, nudging his shoulder with her own. “C’mon. Let’s go get some fuckin’ turkey and cider.”


That man is a vision of temperance. Especially when faced with change– even if it's just knocking heads with this foreign Epstein. The sharing one. Huruma wants desperately to suggest the camera archives. Best not to. Avi's office is blacked out anyway. Halls, maybe? A mental note files in to check.

"She is." murmured by the empath, plying her idle irritation with a bite of food. Huruma tells Epstein how it is– that's one of those god-damned constants he can count on her for. "Francis~," Huruma coos, a jumpcut to teasing, away from talking about feelings. You're welcome. "Cut some of it thin while you're over there, would you?"

“One four-inch thick ham-steak for the tyrannosaurus, comin’ right up.” Francis says over his shoulder with a smirk.

Shockingly, it isn’t long before Rue and Devon are returning to the feast. Her eyes are red and puffy from crying, but she seems in better spirits now. She gives Devon a swat in the arm as they emerge from the mouth of the hall. “Yeah, well, I’m better at Diddy Kong Racing than you are, so there.” There’s still a tension still, the rubber band of their bond is stretched thin, but it’s not so close to the point of breaking anymore. Their sibling-like dynamic seems to be budding once again.

All’s not yet right with the world, but at least one thing is on the mend.

Rubbing her hands over her arms briskly to try and return some warmth to them, Rue whines as she starts to cross the room to her beau. “Hitch, gimme your blazer. I’m fucking freezing.” The please is a tacit thing between them, expressed in her eyes, the arch of her brows, and the subtle downward curve of her teardrop-shaped mouth.

Elliot smiles when he sees Rue return, and makes his way over to where she shivers. He is glad to see whatever transpired between her and Devon seems to have ended well, so he draws no attention to the fact that she’s been crying. He unbuttons his suit coat, but doesn’t remove it. Instead he opens it around Rue and pulls her into a hug, which she melts into, rubbing her back and sharing his warmth. She can have the jacket when she’s a bit closer to room temperature.

“Diddy Kong is for those who can't hack it in Mario Kart.” Devon’s counter argument has the tones of longsuffering, of a discussion that should've died long ago but somehow keeps coming back to life. And it's dropped again just as easily as it was picked up; as Rue goes to join Elliot, Dev angles time join Avi and the group there.

More than happy to have had the attention immediately taken away after the end of her own story, Asi's still drank more of her glass than she'd intended to. She takes a moment to clear her throat while Avi begins his pointed tale to no one in particular, but ends up mumbling her commentary regarding the cameras into her next bite of food.

No need to drag his face in the dirt in front of everyone, surely.

The conversation between Rue and Devon doesn't go without note, though. Asi turns to the latter, arching an eyebrow. She doesn't game, but that doesn't stop her from arguing, "Meaningless boasting if you can't best her in a version of it that wasn't made in the 20th century."

Rue half-turns from the embrace she’s sharing with Elliot so she can gesture to Asi briefly. “Yeah! See? Thank you!” Even the new blood knows that. With a half curl to her lip, Rue warns Devon, “I will strike you.” It just goes to further cement that their rivalry – and their friendship – is back on.

The look Asi gives Rue when she showboats her apparent victory is brief, a faint laugh escaping her. The ex-Hound's game of choice hadn't been exempt from the finger-wagging after all. But she turns back to her plate with a small shake of her head.

Avi has been quiet since his brief story. It’s clear he heard Elliot, from a small look given to his subordinate, but the only real recognition is a subtle bob of his head and a scrub of a hand over his mouth while he considers the floor with great interest. When his phone starts buzzing in his pocket, the relief in his face is almost palpable. He holds up one finger to the others, then brings the phone to his ear already en-route to the door. “Epstein,” he says in that tone that implies it’s business and not his ex-wife or daughter.

Scott watches Avi go from his spot beside Megan, then sighs softly and shrugs. “Alright, so–” the egg-timer by the stove going off causes Scott to do a double-take. “Looks like we all have important calls to take,” he says with a crooked smile and a light touch of a hand to the small of Megan’s back. “That means the arancini is done.”

“Wait,” Francis looks back at Scott, “you baked!? You haven’t made those since I was like five!

Scott shrugs on his way into the kitchen. “Your mother loved them,” he admits, one hand up in the air and the other procuring an oven mitt. “I promised Megan she could try them so long as she promised to lie to me and tell me they were delightful if they were horrible.” He laughs, pulling a baking sheet with breaded rice balls out to cool on the island.

“Nobody eat one yet, the mozzarella inside is probably about as hot as the surface of the sun.” Scott warns with a gesture over the tray. But still, he picks one up with calloused fingers and encapsulates it in a latticework of blue light which then collapses into a singularity. He’ll save that one for later.

Wright and Marthe dig contentedly into their meals, though Wright takes a moment to beam a wide smile at Rue when she catches the woman’s gaze from across the room. She stands to slink toward Scott’s too-hot food, quickly grabbing a rice ball and dropping it onto a plate. “Holy shit, Scott,” she says. “These smell so good.” A curious Elliot steps into her perspective to judge for himself and agrees silently from near the entryway.

She returns to the table, splitting the sphere with a knife to a burst of steam. Marthe hums in appreciation and transfers half to her own plate. They both, wisely, allow their halves of the sun to cool.

Elliot, still entangled with Rue, squeezes her in a gentle hug. “We should go get something to eat,” he says, applying a quick kiss to her temple. “You can hold one of Scott’s dwarf stars to warm you up. You can still have my jacket though.”

The ding of the oven pulls Megan's attention, if only because of the smile and the light touch that accompanies the explanation of what's in there. Francis's reaction makes the redhead have to cover a grin. "Somehow, I have no doubt that they'll come out just fine," she replies placidly. They certainly smell great.

Setting her beer on a table that has room for people to join, Megan makes her way into the food buffet to fill a plate with a selection of flavors. When she actually makes her way over to the baker to put one of the galactically hot treats on her plate, she quirks a brow at the one that vanishes. Silly, says the grin she shoots at Scott. "I can't wait to try them – assuming I can actually taste them and don't sear my taste buds off," she chuckles. She grabs utensils at the same time and points toward the table where she set her drink so the man will know where to join her when he gets his.

As she turns with plate in hand, though, a queer expression passes over her face. The world has a tilt she wasn't expecting – it hasn't happened in several weeks now. "Aw hell," she murmurs, regretfully letting the plate and its contents drop to the floor. She almost looks like she's going to faint, but it's really just that she's leaning in what she thinks is an upright manner – it's not the room tilting, it's her. She's not off the floor … yet. But the spin of the room definitely is unpleasant.

Whatever happened out there, the maelstrom that fussed around the presences of Rue and Devon told her much before they came back into the lounge; when they do, Huruma manages to not give it any undue attention. Inwardly, of course, it's the opposite– she feels a pool of gladness in her core, translating to something refreshing.

He may or may not see it when she does it as Avi leaves the room, but Huruma is feeling enough of a bent to very maturely stick her tongue out at his back as he leaves. Yeah, do that. It comes at the same time that she feels an alteration in the air nearby, setting aside her plate and sliding to her feet.

"He's being a badger," Huruma brings her cup back over to the punch bowl, raising a look to Rue and Elliot before calculating out a ladle. "It's fine." Filled cup in hand, her gesture of fingers tapping at temple is purely for Rue. "Pay his silly tail no more mind tonight, darling."

To anyone else, it just looks like assuaging an ex-Hound on her presence being questioned. Details of it don't touch down. Huruma raises the fruity drink in a mock cheers as she senses Megan's sudden displeasure, head swiveling around to check the source and watching the dizzied woman drop what she's doing and tip against the air.

"I cannot for the life of me get a handle on your triggers…" The empath sets her cup down and steps up to put her hands on Megan's waist and try to right her using the natural center of gravity.

Rue shakes her head to Elliot in the negative. “Nah, I’m okay.” To food, his jacket, and the dwarf star alike. He doesn’t need their link to sense the change in her mood. He felt her posture shift the moment Avi left the room again, like she’s a balloon someone let some of the air out. Partially deflated. “You go ahead, though. I’m just gonna get a drink and kick my feet up on that couch, I think.”

She beelines for the punch bowl, prepared to engage Huruma in a conversation, when she veers off to address the small commotion that is Megan’s situation. Rue ladles herself a drink – finally – and turns to not quite gawk, but assess the hubbub without rushing in herself. There’s a saying about too many cooks, after all. “Anything I can do to help, Nurse Young?” Her voice lifts to offer aid all the same, should it be desired.

The sound of the plate hitting the ground brings Asi back to the present, eyes lifting up. Her own closer to emptied, she slowly comes to her feet to observe the new situation unfolding. She heads for the kitchen part of the kitchen, pulling a long sheet off of a roll of industrial paper towel, layering it up with an edgeless load.

"Here," she offers wordlessly, setting it on the table next to Huruma and Megan before retreating. There either for the floor, or in case the latter was about to be ill. The situation at hand is unfamiliar to her.

And then Asi moves on from it, her mood lightening as she looks between Francis and Scott. "I've never heard of this dish before. What's in it, apart from molten lava?"

Elliot watches Rue leave, though he wants to protest against her rejection of food. He makes his way toward the banquet, pausing to make sure someone is seeing to the loose balloon that is Megan. With that seemingly in hand he assembles a modest plate for himself, as well as a fresh cup of cider.

“They’re full of love,” Francis says with a spread of his hands over his head as though he were unveiling a rainbow.

“They’re absolutely not.” Scott replies with a quick look to his son, then back to the tray. “This is my Nonna’s recipe and she only had two emotions: bourbon and disappointment. But she cooked wonderfully.” Taking a swig from his beer, Scott watches the vultures circling in. “They’re Sicilian arancine di riso. The outside is a light breading over a ball of seasoned rice, the kind you’d make for risotto.”

“The rice has saffron in it. I know, because I had to track down somebody who actually had saffron in the Safe Zone.” Francis explains, leaning against the counter and breathing in deep, eyes down at the arancini on the tray.

Scott doesn’t correct Francis this time. “So, other than the rice– butter, obviously. The rest of the filling is minced carrots and celery along with pork and beef cooked in a red wine reduction, little tomato paste for flavor. Some peas, too.” Then he gestures to some arancini that look a little red on the outside. “These ones dusted in paprika are vegetarian.”

Scott picks one up with two fingers, carefully resting it in the palm of his hands. “And of course, molten mozzarella center.”

Megan is distinctly less than pleased to require the anchoring hands at her waist to keep her from turning into a fucking aerial gyroscope. "Dammit," she mutters. "And now I made a huge mess." And lost her molten ball of mozzarella too! "I can't figure them out either," she snorts at her housemate. It's funny to watch her extend her tippy toes to get her feet back on the floor (with help from Huruma's hands). "That's the first time it's happened in three weeks!"

Uuuuugh! While she's held in place, Megan sets about yoga breathing to recenter her center of gravity into some kind of upright position. "Swear to fucking God, Hooms, if this random shit doesn't stop…" How's she supposed to manage it when it comes out of nowhere?!

She does wave to Rue, however, and shoot the girl a grin. "Nah! I'm just gonna have to start wearing weights on my ankles or something. Geeeez." She also nods her thanks to Asi for the paper towels.

"Messes can be cleaned up." Huruma's initial response is mild, eyes on Asi and then to Megan, more or less comfortable holding her in place until she can control her breathing. No coaching on her part, just an anchor while Megan focuses.

When she is sure the redhead won't pop up again, Huruma releases Megan's waist and edges away, passing a look and gesture to Scott to watch out for another liftoff while she crouches to help with a quick cleanup. No harm, no foul.

"Weights aren't a bad idea, honestly." It's hard to tell if Huruma is being serious or jerking her around. "Your butt would look amazing." The latter.

Scott sideeyes Huruma, then Megan, then pumps his eyebrows up twice. It’s so quick if you blink you’d miss it.

If everyone's spirited enough to be talking about butts, they're almost certainly fine. Asi nabs another of the arancini for her trouble and heads back to her plate.

This has been interesting, but it's not the only stop she has today. She settles into her seat to make these last few bites enjoyable, but quickly made. There's a drive ahead of her yet.

"Everything has been delicious," she calls out for Scott and Elliot's sake as well as whoever else donated their efforts. Rue, surely. Wright, maybe, too. It's tradition to shout praises for all the cooks to hear no matter the culture or holiday, she's sure.

Elliot gives Asi an awkward salute of thanks as he finishes putting a moderate amount of food on a plate. Wright, close enough to not have to shout, says, “Thank you!” for the both of them. Wright is then also given an awkward salute of thanks.

Elliot crosses the room to join Rue on the couch with not one, but two plates of thanksgiving feast. He hands the more modest portion to her with a warm smile. “We did not slave over this cornucopia only to deny ourselves the pleasure of enjoying it,” he says. “You’re the founder of this feast, don’t forget.” Hopefully that conveys the amount of Sorry that Avi is an asshole but you still gotta eat that he’s shooting for.

Inappropriate as always, Rue, from her new lounging position on the couch, calls out: “Her butt’s already amazing!” Because what good are women if they don’t uplift each other? Although… Megan seems to be pretty good at lifting herself, doesn’t she? That observation of Rue’s is kept to herself, however.

That interjection was meant to just be a brief thing, with Rue expecting to be left more or less alone. Her beau, however, has different notions. “I’m trying to be a supermodel over here,” she gripes about the food being passed to her. Still, she does accept the plate, even if she sets it down on the table next to her drink. “C’mere,” she demands in a soft voice, reaching out to take Elliot’s face in her hands before drawing him in for a lingering kiss.

With her forehead resting gently against his, Rue murmurs softly, “I’m thankful for you. I couldn’t have done this alone.”

And with that moment of quiet gratitude out of the way, Rue leans back and raises her voice instead. “I ever tell you all about the time Lucille and I tried to hotwire a truck, and she almost fucking set herself on fire?”

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License