Sorry About That


asi_icon.gif elliot_icon.gif

Scene Title Sorry About That
Synopsis Elliot apologizes to Asi for rude breakfast behaviors with surprise breakfast behaviors.
Date September 29, 2020

The Bastion

The Bastion is quiet on a weekday morning. Elliot imagines that the transient nature of the staff, living half here, half elsewhere, may be linked to proximity to whichever bar an employee frequents on a given weeknight.

It was more predictable in Rochester, where drinking establishments weren't as pervasive as they are now in the Safe Zone. Everybody usually slept it off on base predictably late. Elliot could have the kitchen to himself more early mornings than not, where he practiced cooking. Hot Canned Good was a staple throughout the war, but with ingredients becoming more reliable he had the chance to actually use the knowledge he'd taken from Tala.

In the here and now it doesn't hurt as much. He doesn't wonder what she'd say about his latest tries with her recipes. What she'd think of the modifications they'd theorized once she discovered his knack for forming complex flavor profiles from memory. With her own encyclopedic memory of all things, not just her recipes, they'd spend long hours picking each other's brains and imagining what they could cook when they escaped.

This meal is unaltered from Tala's family breakfast, with some leeway for availability. Milk fish isn't always easy to find on this side of the planet. But it's what Tala would think of every morning when they shared their breakfasts across the arcology. Today Elliot is preparing it because it's the closest thing to the brunch Asi prepared for him and Wright on his first day back. When he was kind of a dick.

So the apology is cooking on the stovetop when Asi arrives to prepare breakfast for herself. Fish, crackling in a cast iron pan. Lightly dusted rolls, fresh from the oven, steam lazily on the table beside a crock of jam. The smell of coffee and chocolate compete for attention, the latter in a sweet porridge next to a dish of small dried, whole fish.

Elliot forms rice into cakes by pressing them into ramekins then tapping them out onto two plates. He takes up a glass and swirls the sweet vinegar and garlic in it before drizzling it over the rice. When he's sure someone is approaching the kitchen he cracks two eggs into the pan beside the fish.

One hand smearing tired out of the corner of her eye, Asi jarrs to a stop after appearing in the doorway, taken aback to see an unfamiliar face at the griddle. It takes a blink before she lowers off of her proverbial haunches, the silent spike of alarm and suspicion that had coursed through her shoved back down as deep as there's space for.

After all, Elliot isn't unwelcome here. He's just new to her.

Her arm swings down by her side, the loose black sleeve of the sweater she wears falling with it. When her step resumes, it's without particular announcement of her presence save for her footsteps— ones that follow a subtle correction of course. If Elliot's cooking already, she'll start with coffee and work her way up to food. It doesn't sound like a terrible idea— or look like one if the wearied bleary of her eyes is any indication.

Asi may regret, just a little, rolling back into Bastion looking suspiciously hungover rather than any semblance of put together, but she's not scheduled for any police babysitting today— she'll take the day on at her own pace, thank you.

"Good morning," she murmurs once she nears the kitchen island, and with that breath draws in the scent of what he's cooking. It brings a shift in the dark of her eyes, a curious flick of her gaze going over just what's being prepared. With more life to it than her previous mutter, she says with a slight lift in volume, "I see you're settling in well."

Her head moves on, a primal need for stimulants drawing her to look for the source of the blessed scent of coffee next. "Do you mind if I take a cup?"

Elliot gestures to the coffee pot as he pokes around the edges of the eggs with a spatula. "Help yourself to anything," he says. "I think we've got enough time to enjoy breakfast before anyone else is awake enough to wander in looking to steal it."

He's quiet for a moment as he gives the eggs a final inspection, grabbing the pan handle with a folded towel. He carries it to the table and sets one egg on each plate atop the rice. The fish follows next, crisped to a dark golden brown. "This is for you," he adds as an afterthought.

He sets the pan back on the stove, running his fingertips over each knob to assure himself they're all off. He sits at the table and takes a sip of his own coffee, grabbing a roll with his other hand. "I wasn't sure if you had any dietary restrictions, so I cleaved close to the breakfast you made. I thought I would return the favor," he says, tearing the roll open to release a puff of steam, then dipping it in his coffee mug. "My way of apologizing for my… infiltration and other rude behaviors."

The fact the plate is for her and not for Wright is a surprise to Asi, evidenced by a lift of her brow as she sets aside the coffee pot. Each item of the breakfast is considered in brief beats before she finally looks back to Elliot himself with a look of vague confusion.

She has no idea what this is for. Yet, at least. But when he heads back to the stove, she meanders to the table all the same, gingerly drawing back a chair to settle herself down in front of one of the fixed plates and get a closer eye on the meal. The effort that's put into it— especially the plating of it is remarkable.

Far better than she'd strive for at this hour even if she weren't hung over.

Right as she reaches the point she wants to ask what's behind the meal, he's sitting down and explaining anyway. It's a good thing she's already settled down her mug or she might risk spilling it with the quiet, unsmiling laugh that comes from her. "Rude behavior?" Asi wonders aloud. "You are truly the most well-behaved of all of them here, Hitchens."

"I can't be mad you tricked the door," she assures him as she picks up the fork laid out, gaze focused somewhere halfway between him and the food. "All it did was prove that the system we put in place is little more than security theatre when it comes to determined parties. Yes, there was record of what you did, but what good does a record do at actually keeping the perimeter safe?"

She brings the side of the fork down carefully against the egg, glancing up at him with a quirk of an eyebrow.

Elliot smiles as he finishes off the roll, then washes it down with another small sip of coffee. He picks up his fork to pin his fish in place before taking up his spoon to cut it—no knives have been laid out beside the plates. He sets the spoon down to take up the garlic vinegar and drizzle it across the length of the fish filet.

“In your system’s defense,” he begins, “It was considerably harder to get in than I had anticipated. I had a half hour start on Wright and she got in here just behind me. Not counting the hours I spent casing the joint. And don’t tell Wright you think I’m well-behaved, she might tell you all the ways how not true that is.” He smirks, mischievously, before finally biting into his fish. Crispy, sweet, sour. Nailed it.

“Also,” he says once his mouth isn’t full, “I kind of insulted your coffee. I think I’m so used to Wolfhound coffee being burnt to hell and back that my expectation altered the flavor. Sloppy of me really. There was a lot happening at the time, but that’s no excuse.” He shrugs, seeming more embarrassed by his reaction to the coffee than his less than legitimate entry into the building.

And rightly so, as far as Asi would see it. One should never be ashamed of a well-executed security breach.

She laughs, though, a surprised as much as endeared sound. "You know— you aren't the only one with complaints about the state of the hot beverages here." Picking up a warm roll of her own, her head cants at an angle. "A federal officer who stopped by yesterday was so offended by it, she insisted she'd send me better tea." But it doesn't seem to bother her.

Because: "I didn't buy it. The coffee or the tea, either. It's not my sensibilities you'd be offending." Asi is smiling now, a one-sided smirk worn in amusement over Elliot's concern about his perceived rudeness. "I would lodge future complaints against the Bank of Harkness, perhaps. But not too strongly. Good coffee is expensive, and sometimes still difficult to source."

But things were much improved in the Safe Zone than they were two years ago. It's less hard to find than it used to be.

"What I mean to say is— your apology is accepted, but unnecessary." A bite of the fish is taken, and afterward her gaze drops back to her plate.

"うまっ1," she breathes out in an opaque mutter, her expression difficult to read.

“I feel like complaints to the Harknesses would be pointless,” Elliot says, “As I’m fairly sure that drinking bad coffee is what powers their abilities. It certainly starts as the sludge that Francis strains out of the oil pans in the garage. Having access to good coffee finally was a real life-saver, unlike alcohol, stimulants don’t fuck with my links.”

He takes Asi’s acceptance and dismissal of his apology with a smile, and cuts into his egg and rice with his spoon next. He studies her reaction to the food, and seems satisfied at the very least with her not slapping her plate off of the table.

“This,” he gestures toward his plate, “Is supposed to be bangsilog, though I couldn’t find milkfish belly so I sourced another fatty whitefish. I think that, with the marinade, it’s close enough to what I remember it tasting like.”

He motions toward the rolls. “Pandesal, which is thankfully easy to make here. Champorado and tuyo.” He gestures at the last two, the chocolate porridge and fish, in a way that suggests they are two parts of the same dish. He is careful with how he names the dishes, though he’s clearly not fluent in the language.

While Asi chews, she silently catalogues the unfamiliar names of the dishes. Pan present in the name of the bread, may be indicative of a Latin origin or influence. The fish, though— decidedly unLatin. The itch to reach for a line to the internet is instant, hard to shirk. It's through practiced effort she remains in the moment, utilizing critical thinking instead.

"You spent time in the Indies?" she asks politely as she tears another small chunk of bread from the roll she's picked. Excessively small, all the better to continue eating and carrying conversation at the same time. She notes breezily, "I can't comment as to the cultural accuracy, but it's leagues above typical American fare."

Bite of bread popped away, she pulls the porridge closer. If it was to be paired, she would pair it.

“Not me personally,” Elliot says with a shake of his head. “I’ve never left the continent. A Filipina with a long memory shared her recipes with me. Tala,” he clarifies. He thinks for a moment, weighing how much he’s comfortable disclosing now that he’s back, and arguably safer than he would have been otherwise. “She left Manila for New York and was a chef in Manhattan. Before the Institute black-bagged her. We met in the Ark. One of my first co-hosts to the network.”

“One of the downsides of the network is that it takes a lot of practice to keep anything someone shares with you. Filipino, for example.” He gestures at the food. “I could speak it in the Ark but then…” He trails off and shrugs as he comes back to it. “After Cambridge I didn’t link anyone else who spoke it so what little I knew just kind of faded away. Mostly all that’s left is food names and some of her particularly startling profanity. The recipes stuck because we talked about them a lot.”

He eats another bite and washes it down with his coffee. “I agree with you about American food. I had never understood the boundaries of flavor as other people explained them to me. ‘These things taste good,’ or ‘these are gross.’ Not that I got many chances to expand my palate growing up. I didn’t even realise I had a knack for flavor combinations until Tala dug it out of me. With her eidetic memory I was able to taste everything she’d ever eaten, from Manila to here.” He smiles fondly as he riffles back through what’s left of those memories.

“Usually I go easy on people and just add one weird ingredient to an American classic just to mess with them. Wright humors me though, she will eat literally anything I come up with. She’s a gem.”

Elliot's openness is met with a quiet from Asi, who goes about her meal without lifting her head to look overlong at him while he explains the story behind knowledge of the dish. Tales of the Institute and Cambridge were far things from her potential pool of shared experiences to commiserate about.

At least in this lifetime.

It takes a long drink of coffee to try and wash back the cold numb that threatens to sweep out from the hollow spot within her. She reflects the piece of herself that was held captive in another time had no small nuggets of positive memory that went along with what had happened to her. And she's aware more than ever how alone she is, without that other her whispering, resting in her mind.

"I had wondered about the extent of your 'networking'. How it works, how information is transferred. It's…" She mulls how to describe it without sounding the wrong way about it. It's not a scientific curiosity, it's more personal than that. "It sounds familiar in an entirely foreign way," Asi relates carefully, then takes her time tasting the spoon after enjoying another bite of the porridge and fish.

"My compliments to Tala," she voices softly. "She helped you become a fine chef yourself."

Looking back up, she arches an eyebrow, passing from that solemn, well-meaning beat to something else with hardly a blink. She's deadpan save for a shift in the light in her eyes. "Are you sure Wright puts up with your combinations because she trusts you, or because she trusts that she can make you taste anything horrid you try to pull on her?"

There’s a complex ripple in Elliot’s face when Asi talks about Tala. He can’t remember the last time he heard someone else say her name. But he takes the praise gladly. He fills the space of the moment by reaching for his own small bowl of porridge and dipping one of the small dried fish into it, eating it like a chip in dip.

But when Asi questions Wright’s motivations he laughs. “Thankfully she can’t. Too wiley. With the network you can’t really send your sensations to someone else, it’s all in pulling others to yourself. I serve as the switchboard operator, but that’s mostly background stuff. You can tag something, kind of pull another host’s attention toward your senses. I’ve called it attention dragging but it didn’t catch on. Don’t tell Wright I admitted to that, at this point it’s just funny to watch her get wound up about it.”

“But you basically host another person to sense what you do. You know they’re there. With practice you know which other host is looking. Everybody’s got those little ticks that make you recognize them even when you don’t see them.” He sips his coffee again and, surprised to find it empty, quickly stands to grab the carafe and bring it back to the table. He refills his mug and offers to top off Asi’s own before setting it down.

“Basically, you can’t force somebody else to sense what you’re sensing. You can invite them, but they can always look away. So tricking someone into suddenly tasting something truly horrendous,” he says as he begins to chuckle and grin deviously, gesturing as he talks, “Is very tricky. I’ve used up most of my most devious ideas. Wright is maniacal about getting to pass that pain on to someone else, so be warned.”

It strikes her again how open Elliot is with these insights, and Asi lays aside her spoon to take a moment to appreciate that. A thoughtful look draws itself over her as she leans forward slightly, hands clasping together in her lap. Brief consideration is given to griefing him over don't tell Wright, but she opts instead to offer solid advice instead. "Perhaps it's like a ping, instead? Shooting a notification to the group." Her brow quirks with the suggestion. "If you're still accepting suggestions, that is."

The refill of her cup leads her to lift her head in a silent gesture of acknowledgement, thanks. Already this has been nourishing enough to bring life back into her, make her feel a little less heavy at the start of her day. The warning regarding Wright's penchant for pranking just as much as Elliot brings her to smile almost involuntarily, glancing down in an attempt to hide it before she resumes her meal.

"Is it different for you," she wonders absently. "being as you're the switchboard everything else passes through?"

“I’ve been testing the waters with ping,” he admits. “Though, ‘Tap (user) in the feed’ satisfies a sci-fi novel itch of mine.” The parentheses are obvious as he pronounces them. “But I’m still very flexible on terminology, I’ll admit I don’t get to say most of this shit out loud on the regular.”

“And it is,” his smile fading from conspiratorial to practical. “I get to gatekeep somewhat. It’s not telepathy in the popular sense. I can restrict access from host to host, feature to feature. But I’m never reading minds or anything so pedestrian.” A dismissive hand-wave.

He takes a bite of his breakfast almost reflectively as he assembles his continuation. “But anybody can ping, and anybody can share a memory. Like when a group conversation is really rolling, and you suddenly realise you need to interject with your own experience. Without practice it’s reflexive more than not. You draw attention to what you’re remembering, and other hosts can remember it with you. Though, you can drop the tag, people can’t look there again.”

“There’s a lot of trust involved. Especially with empathy being a given, you can’t avoid that. Even when I set a link it’s not like I’m scanning people’s memories looking for where the embarrassing goods are. I have to target something, and spot the reflexes. But once the link is open, the back-and-forth gets natural, fast. Being able to reach out and pull somebody else’s perspective, to need a memory and have it offered?” He cocks an eyebrow, seems surprised to have made such a dent in his breakfast. Doesn’t know exactly where he was going with that thread in his excitement.

Thanks to the passionate way he's been carrying on, she's made it far into her own bowl at least. Asi responds in her own way in silence while she eats, with a conciliatory tilt of her head in interest and acknowledgement here, a quirk of her brow there.

A small smile when he describes telepathy as pedestrian, or popular. She hides that one away with a larger bite of roll, or at least she tries.

By the time he's created a space where she can interject, she's setting aside her spoon again, laying it horizontally on her plate cleared of rice and egg. "Effective communication at the speed of mind requires a lot of trust," Asi agrees in a reserved quiet. "Perfected, it would make for seamless teamwork, among other things. It…"

Here is where she struggles again with her honesty, eyebrows ticking closer for a moment before she admits, "It sounds exciting, to tell you the truth. To be connected, to have that perspective, those additional pools to pull from. To increase your own capability, your own understanding, to share with others, all as fast as…" One hand lifts, thumb and ring finger snapping mutedly.

"Well—" Asi curbs back the strains of enthusiasm that have entered her own voice then, hand lowering. "Maybe not that fast."

“It is instantaneous,” Elliot says. Mournfully, almost. “It’s the,” he snaps his fingers crisply, “That makes it work. If you’re not all functioning simultaneously you can’t really contribute.”

“The connection at least,” he chuckles. “Remembering things takes as long as it does to remember a thing. But there’s no lag. And it’s always mitigated by what data active hosts currently possess. I’ve never had a run-in with externally-altered memories, but I assume they’d be effectively impossible for me to index. I can’t rabbit-hole through somebody’s recollection. Christ, that would be a nightmare with my train of thought.”

“There’s other utility, like lending your cognition to someone else to speed up their own,” he says. “Overclocking. I don’t think there will ever be a better nickname for it than that. I haven’t had a lot of opportunity to apply it to SLC-E abilities, but it’s theoretically possible.”

“And I would happily give you a tour of the ins and outs. There are some weird side effects. Other than what you can extrapolate from what I’ve already disclosed. Alcohol and some other drugs can create a lot of lag and can pull people out of the network, so one might need, hypothetically speaking, a good night’s sleep first.”

He sweeps his fork and spoon back over his plate, surprised to see that so much of his food is gone. Huh, he thinks. Haven’t speed-eaten in a while.

Asi's attention perks again at the mention of overclocking an SLC-E ability. She's intrigued— and then dials it back immediately. It's not as though she could benefit from that anymore. She finishes off her roll while she simultaneously chews over a thought.

"So, you live— whatever happens in their mind, as it happens to them. Their senses only. There's no opportunity to sense if there's more going on in their head than even they are aware of… is there."

Not that there was any wishful thinking interrupted by that realization. She shakes her head, focusing on what could be useful still.

"The bit about externally altered memories… I would be curious, if you were willing, to test that theory. To see if you found anything difficult to parse in my memories of the Fourth of July and going to rest that night." The more she talks, the slower, more careful the words become. She realizes it's not just a check. She'd be inviting someone else in to her lived experience there as well.

And it was frightfully close to remembering what came immediately after.

"I— was here, as best I recall," Asi explains with some distance in her eyes as she looks off. "But I was inexplicably discovered the next morning in Manitoba, Canada— a geographically impossible hop for the amount of time between my last memory and the rough time we awoke in the plane crash."

The last of her food feels as though it's become ash in her mouth, inedible despite its pleasant scent and taste. Sharing like this doesn't come easy for her. She picks up her mug, tacking on a repeated "If you're willing." to that before taking a healthy drink of equally-ashen coffee.

“You get their sensory information only when you’re actively streaming. And while you can stream memories from someone, you don’t hear what they’re thinking while you do it.” He waves his hand to say This is a good thing.

“But I’d be willing to give it a try sometime. I’ve never attempted something like that before, I’ll have to think on the right approach.” Elliot drums his fingers lightly against the edge of the table, considering how he could do it.

“There could be some interaction if there’s more than one person living in your head. Hypothetically. Like, if somebody used traditional telepathy to read your thoughts while you were linked, that telepath might be able to move through the links to other hosts. It’s possible that if you were telepathically linked to someone else that…” he pauses for a moment. “I honestly don’t know what would happen in that situation.”

"It'd depend on where the telepath is, I'd imagine," Asi dithers quietly. "If the telepath is networked through you, versus if they're… VPNed in through another member. And it'd depend on the type of telepathy. Mind-reading versus telepathic messaging, and so on…"

She digresses by lifting one hand to run back through her hair, leaning back in her seat to distance herself from the hypothetical. It doesn't feel as though that's a scenario they'll run into, at least. Not in that way, anyway.

But if somehow Elliot was able to determine if her other self was still present in her, just… not able to be seen from where she was sitting due to a lack of her ability to interface with her…

"I'll come in on my best behavior whenever you say the word," Asi demures. "I'm interested in the networking experience even without my selfish curiosity involved."

“In that case,” Elliot says, “I’ll probably give you some network training before I try to get into anything else. Your own familiarity with the network would probably be a big help before trying that. We can practice a few times, but getting the real utility of it we’ll probably want to link on an assignment or some police shifts. It’s hard for me to maintain network cohesion for long periods of time, so generally I would start small. Not longer than a work day at first.”

He takes a sip of his coffee and sets it back down, chasing a bit of crispy fish onto his spoon with the fork. “And I should stress that I don’t know if it’s possible. But we’ll see what we can do. As long as we’re both on the same work schedule we can start training whenever you’re ready.”

She indicates her understanding with the ghost of a smile and a slight tip of her head. "Something to look forward to, then," Asi supposes. Her cleared plate isn't quite as empty as his, but neither does she have his grade of appetite. She makes it clear with a quiet clap of her hands together underneath the table. "ごちそうさま," is a light pronouncement, made before she comes to her feet and begins to gather up her plate, coffee left behind to continue enjoying it.

Plate and silverware stacked, she offhandedly suggests as she moves to the sink, "If you enjoy unAmerican food, perhaps we should make time to stop by Yamagato Park in the near future. The local cuisine there is almost like what you'd have in Japan. I could show you a few favorites."

“That sounds delightful,” Elliot says. “I don’t go there as often as I feel I should. Any time I suggest it to Wright it just reminds her that the showroom is already in Red Hook, and what could be more important than staring through the window at a Ventus?” He stands and brings his own dishes to the counter, beginning to scrape and stack everything beside the sink in an orderly fashion, checking the pans on the stove to ensure nothing needs to be soaked.

He sits back down, taking up another roll, now cool, and opening it with his fingertips to spoon some champorado into the center. He relishes it, washing it down with more coffee. He repositions himself to draw his phone from his pocket and check the time, and places the phone face down on the table without unlocking it.

He considers for a moment before asking, “What are you good at? One of the best uses for the network is sharing memories. You can show somebody what you experienced, or at least how you remember experiencing it, which is rarely the same thing. But also Languages can be shared to a degree, and any sort of explicit memory-based skill. Raw data. Implicit, or muscle memory won’t transfer, which is too bad, because other people are much better at fighting than I am.”

Asi's brow twists, her head tilting in confusion. She's never been much for window-shopping, not for material goods. There are things in life worth fantasizing about having, and letting material goods be one of them was just— silly. But to each their own, maybe. She shakes her head in silence to her own thoughts as she flicks on the water, waiting for it to run hot.

Sponge, soap— meet dish. It's a welcome focus of energy when Elliot poses the question he does about her, giving her something to idly do while she compiles her response. "As for languages, I can share what I know. Japanese and Mandarin I can speak as well as write with ease. I picked up French, too, at university. That one is less-refined, but not faded." One eye squints idly. "Do programming and query languages count? Because if they do…"

Her head tilts at an angle while she picks through what could be considered useful to others. It's easy to share what's publicly known about her first. "I design and build drones and other robots. I served as the technology specialist for my team in the Mugai-Ryu. Many of my creations saw their use in search and rescue and in object retrieval and delivery. Scouting drones are an area I've focused on since leaving the JSDF."

Leaving. As if she hadn't been accused of murdering the Minister of Justice and was the subject of an internationally-televised manhunt.

"A long time ago, I worked on a design team for prosthetics-come-cybernetics. That is a skill I should hope none of you will ever need of me." One dish is swapped for the next in the joined stack. "I was trained in close-quarters combat, though I have had few occasions to need it, with my role usually being in the backline. Apart from firearms, I also practice kendo and fencing. If my parents had their way, it would have been archery instead of swordplay."

She laughs, and rinses the ramekin in her hand clean of soap before setting it in a rack next to the sink.

"Once upon a time, I could not keep my hands off of other people's protected systems. I don't dabble in hacking nearly as much as I used to." Asi looks over her shoulder perhaps pointedly, brows lifting. "I try to avoid creating international incidents wherever possible."

So limit your special, illegal requests, if you would.

“Programming languages do transmit,” Elliot says. “I’ve tried to keep current with those myself, but most of my application for them was over a decade ago. I wouldn’t hire me for anything important in that area. Engineering drones is interesting, I feel like there’s a lot of data there more so than muscle memory. Combat pretty much doesn’t transmit. Which, like I said, is a shame. Most of my infiltration knowledge falls into that category too.”

He leans back into his chair in consideration for a moment. “Any flexibility for intranational incidents?” He laughs it off, Not serious. “A lot of that could be shared as well.”

Asi lets out a scoff of a laugh as she turns back to the remaining plates, grabbing the surrendered silverware up to scrub them. "I'm a bit more flexible on those," she jokes. "But I'm not sure you can afford my rates."

She lifts her head, thoughtful. "No one says the network explicitly needs to see use for some information to pass. If you want to begin some training, I could use the maintenance, myself. There's facilities in the basement, we wouldn't even have to travel far."

Asi adds in a mutter so quiet it might be meant for her alone, "And anyway, my parkour buddy is a little… wrapped up in other affairs recently."

“I’m down for programming and programming-adjacent crime training any day,” Elliot says. “It would be good to look busy next time Avi looks into my office suspiciously.”

“I could always use the exercise,” he admits, “Though for my own safety we’d have to pretend that doing so was Wright’s idea. If she found out someone else got me working out I’d have to explain why I didn’t when she repeatedly and strongly suggested that I do so.” He’s clearly joking, but looks thoughtful. He actually could use the exercise, he just hates it.

Asi lets out a mirthful tone in reply to Elliot's explanation. Yeah, nobody exercises for the fun of it. If they do, they've found something within it that gives them joy … or they're just a masochist, and suffering is joy.

At any rate, gamification, goals, and partnership is definitely important.

"Crime training…" she mutters with amusement. But hey, that's definitely what she's hoping to get out of the arrangement. Might as well call it what it is.

"Let me know when you've successfully dug your way out of that grave, then," she suggests, wringing the sponge dry and shutting off the sink tap. "God only knows I need more productive distractions than the kind I've taken to lately." Asi returns to the table to collect her drink, lifting her mug in a clear gesture of acknowledgement of Elliot. "Thank you again for breakfast. Consider your apology humbly accepted."

“Most gracious of you,” Elliot responds with an honest smile. It’s tempting to be carried away into post-meal drowsiness, but he finishes his second cup of coffee and pours a third. Sitting here, soaking in the experience of breakfast and company, is enough to keep his mind occupied and awake.

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