Sweet Escape


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Scene Title Sweet Escape
Synopsis Shaw takes some time to share some words, a drink, and something sweet when one of the Sundered seeks out his establishment to cope with the latest development in their lives.
Date June 25, 2021

Brenda's Bar and Griddle

As New Yorkers are oft expected to do, the owners and clientele of Brenda’s Bar & Griddle occupy the establishment with all the stubbornness and resiliency of city goers in the face of ill weather conditions. Sheets of dirty rain batter the tall windows, leaving black and grey rivulets streaming into gutters and on into streets where likely the surges overwhelm already taxed drainage systems. But hey… it’s Friday.

It means that those willing to come in from the miserable conditions are greeted with warmth and drink, food and music. Though not as full Friday crowd as it could be, there are pockets of bustle in Brenda’s keeping staff busy. To the keener eye for the greenery, several more air purifying plants have spread throughout the space thanks to Namiko’s special touch. Though the agrokinetic DJ isn’t in view, her not-so-much older adoptive father is. The man can be seen carrying a tray of empty plates away from a recently vacated table, unobtrusively stepping around customers as he makes his way to a cart holding a bin for dirty dishes.

If Shaw harbors any worry about certain world-shattering conditions revealed to a certain group of people, he doesn’t show it outwardly to any of the people within the dining space.

Asi's shoulders and hair have dried from the stinking rain with how long she's been seated here, gently nursing her third glass in a five-drink course. It's the special, she's told. The signature, served on a wooden plank grooved especially to snugly fit each glass. She's chewing the alcohol-soaked fruit of the sangria, elbow on the bar, her eyes unfocused on the horizon as she peers at something that isn't there to be seen. Her drink is cradled close to her mouth for her next sip, whenever that comes. She's been taking her time with the runner of alcohol, at least.

She's matured that much over the last year. She'd like to think that's progress.

Shaw's passing by is finally noted out the corner of her eye, and her head turns like she's magnetised to the sight of him– someone else who went through what she did last year, someone whose face is hard for her to forget as the crash victims all struggled together to free him from where he'd been impaled in his coffin of a machine. Enough time has passed she no longer associates his face with the fire, but rather a silent ally– insomuch as someone who went through a joint experience can be based on that merit alone. "Shahid," Asi calls out to him just slightly over the din, right as he seems ready to turn to head off again.

The sleek black leather jacket she wears is the same as always, her clothing not demarcating any particular occasion for her being here. Despite that, the drink is cradled close like it's anathema to whatever ails her, and there's visible signs of a stressful day in the hunch of her shoulders and the bags under her eyes.

Getting full firstnamed spins Shaw's attention more immediately than anything else that vies for his service. Once he finds the source and connects with a familiar voice and face, he comes over with a smile readied for a friend rather than the sort reserved for a customer. "Hello, Asi," the man greets in his typical softened tones. "How are you doing tonight?" The smile stumbles slightly away from him upon seeing the state she's in. "Drinks strong enough?" That's surely the first, most obvious solution to what ails Asi. Surely. Seeing where she's at in the alcoholic journey, Shaw peers with interest over, well, all of her, as if taking in the real time effects of the special tasting menu. "Did you want anything to eat?"

That noted, though, Shaw seems to further take note of the woman's exhausted but anxious state and settles onto the empty stool beside her. The man goes silent for a brief beat, letting the atmosphere slide around them like the ashy rain drops suspended upon Asi's black leather. Another glance goes to the red sangria and he offers, "I'd go with chicken wings." There's the slightest hint of darkness behind his eyes upon that suggestion, a flutter of memory flitting past his dark eyed gaze upon the glass.

Asi presses together a thin but visible smile on the question of how she's doing. It seems like that might serve as her only answer until she's asked if the drinks are strong enough, to which she replies by nodding and letting out a tone of affirmation. Then the question for food actually takes her eyes back down to the board in front of her, a more thoughtful note leaving her. "Hadn't thought about it," she answers honestly. She's taking it slow enough she's nowhere near slurring, and might be caught up with the thought of food– or something else– with the way her gaze goes distant. A swift shake of her head later, and it's like she's cleared her throat, reset the conversation. At least in her mind.

"You doing okay?" she asks without looking back up. "With the latest news?" A beat passes, and then her brow begins to pull together in the beginnings of a furrow. Realizing what she's said, and what pieces don't align, she begins to turn back to Shaw, her eyes going to him last. "… Shit, did the message get around to you?" Asi asks instead, with all the slow and awkward weight of someone who doesn't want to be the bearer of bad news, but is prepared to be. The smile is long gone now, replaced with a just-as-small hint of frown.

"You weren't there at Isaac's," she ventures, not recalling. Honestly, there were so many of them and so much going on…

In the moment where Asi takes to contemplate the possible choice of non-alcoholic fare, Shaw already has a caught the attention of a passing server and signalled silently a gesture that passes a communication between. Not a word spoken to interrupt the woman's atmosphere. Yet something is conveyed, understood, and off the server goes.

When she speaks again, his focus returns to her. "Mm… yes, most of the time," answers Shaw at first. The blissful ignorance in his face wavers when she follows with a frown. Shaw shakes his head slowly. He wasn't there. Troubled suspicion creeps up with worry and a frown of his own. He recognizes the gravity of bad news, what with all that they've been through of late. And to top all that off, the ashy, smoky, impending threat of fire outside the sanctuary of the restaurant around them.

"What message?" Dark eyes search her over for further clues he might discern, picking for context.

A low exhale precedes it. "We, ah…" Asi winces and shifts her posture in her seat in an attempt to become more presentable with it. "Someone else like us reached out and found us." Her eyes had wandered away for just a moment but they return back to Shaw again quickly enough. "Knows… our whole situation, the truth behind it. Who did this to us, and where our best shot at answers is."

That's the positive. The alcohol starts seeping into her expression, though, the downer bringing her features to sag. "… But the meantime is, we're not ourselves. And we're missing something our whole–" She gestures an open hand toward her head, the one Isaac and Zachery's machinations several months ago as well as Yi-Min's exploratory surgery had revealed to be filled with a mechanical brain rather than an organic one. "everything needs in order to keep working long-term. So we either find the ally who sent Kirk to us, or we– and our real selves– are as good as dead. One way or the other."

Her voice had softened lower and lower, meant to carry only between them. At this point she leans slightly toward Shaw and proclaims tenderly, "So I'm drinking about it." and then proceeds to look away so she can pick up her glass again to actually sip from it.

"It's a lot to think about. Plenty to drink about," Shaw empathizes, adopting a tone that distinguishes somewhere within an understanding. After a few beats given for the conversation flow to ebb back and pool into inner thoughts, he bubbles back up. "For that message from Captain Kirk, we were there, but. Isa was not… really paying much attention. And later, after we talked a little, she did what you are doing." Drinking oneself into a stupor was often a way to avoid facing reality for the couple. Because reality happens to be for them right now… pretty fucked up. Again. He could never blame her, or any of the victims of these strange circumstances, for trying to find a way to escape.

Settling in further into his seat, Shaw leans forward, interlaces his fingers, and rests his chin on the hammock of his knuckles. His eyes sweep to and fro along the colorful bottles of the bar. "You know, there's still something that nobody seems to know and I guess we won't either until we find the wizards behind the curtain," he muses between them, "is why all of this? So much trouble. Everywhere. All the time." His brow furrows, eyes paused on a backlit bottle of WNK moonshine. "Every timeline."

Shaw's expression falls for a moment as does his gaze, thoughtful and troubled. But the moment passes like a moving stormcloud, and he turns back to Asi with a small, wry smile. "Maybe they all need to have some waffles," he says semi-jokingly.

"Perhaps that's the mystery tincture to solve all the world's ails after all," Asi replies in the same semi-joking, semi-not manner. She thumbs the side of the small glass in her hand. "Otherwise, I…"

Her eyelids lower to halves and she admits in a voice meant for only them, "Sometimes I can't help but see the world, see humanity the way the Entity does. A blight, determined to make the same mistakes over and over, hurting each other without ever truly growing." Her voice grows drier with sincerity as she continues, "Murdering advancement in its crib for fear of something new." Before her tone can grow truly bitter, she takes another sip of the runner before her and sets it back down gently. "But losing oneself to nihilism is a fast-track to ensuring the small-minded win."

"As painful as that is to reconcile with, sometimes," she sighs in reply to herself, resting the side of a fist against the bartop and staring off at nothing. She takes in a breath to better capture and hold this shift in attitude, to try and internalize determination, if not hope, more than any other voice that rallies for dominance in her mind. Asi blinks slowly and eventually finds herself turning back to Shaw.

"I lament all this for you two, especially," she notes candidly. "For you to have come so far only to have so much still happen. It's…" Her expression remains placid as she tries to place the right word, settling for the unsatisfying, "Unfair." before tipping her hand to the side to indicate her unhappiness with the overall situation.

Asi's confession of her darker, bitter thoughts do not sit well with Shaw. His small smile remains, but the innocence drains from it and is replaced by unease. A haunted memory wells up in his too-long stare, from it reflecting a deep and echoing pang of pain. She can see it shift in the seconds that tick by, and then it's again gone in a blink.

"Maybe," Shaw says softly and turns away from the woman to rise from his seat and walk away. For a moment it seems like an abrupt end to their conversation, his retreat unannounced by anything but steps moving him away from her. But his path doesn't hurry, nor does it go far. Instead, Shaw rounds the end of the bar and returns on the other side of it, where he grabs the bottle of moonshine he'd been eyeing previously. He takes that, an empty glass, and a strip of mopping cloth with him from behind the countertop.

Then he proceeds back to Asi's side by hopping up onto the bar and returning to his seat, items placed neatly before him. Other patrons turn and look taken aback, while the bartender working doesn't even stop her idle polishing of another glass at the other half. The cloth swirls twice to wipe the counter where he had stepped. In another moment, he pours himself a single shot, lifting it and accompanying it with words that recite in prayer-like fashion:

"Wa la-nabluwanakum bishay-in mina al-khawfi wa-ljoo'ai wa-naqsin mina al-amwali wal-anfusi wa-ththamarat, wa-bashiri as-sabireen. Al-latheena itha asabat-hum museebatun qaloo inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji'aoon. Olaika 'alayhim salawatun min rabbihim wa-rahmah wa-olaika hum al-muhtadoon."1

And in the next moment, Shaw tips the drink back. He sets the emptied glass down after, once more turning back to Asi and offering again his smile. "We must be patient. The path will show up once there is time to look for it," he concludes of his circuitous action.

When Shaw completes his circle back to her, Asi doesn't understand the reverent words that Shaw utters, nor does she press for understanding of them. Those moments are taken to reflect on her own path, the kinds of words she wants to guide herself by, and meditate upon them. Shaw's summary he gives her from what he draws from the words he's spoken for himself lead her to lift her own drink as well.

"Slow and steady wins the race, isn't it?" she echoes in return, drinking and continuing to hold her glass before setting it back down. She considers what's left of this glass, and then the remaining one she's not touched, and gently pushes it back across the bar. She can feel what she's already had warming her cheeks and swimming in her mind, anyway. She doesn't need more. "I'm all too ready for us to be done with it. Just… just a little while longer now." Her fingers pat the bartop gently in appreciation of what it's done for her.

"And there's still multiple different routes to investigate yet," Asi acknowledges gingerly. "Onshore investigations into Yamagato as much as offshore investigations into… everything else we've learned. Enough mysteries to go around for a lifetime, if we don't split the work."

"Don't be caught napping, since that's what got us in trouble in the first place. Napping rabbits…" Shaw nods solemnly, his eyes following the final drink of the flight's path back across the bar. His fingers spider forward to reach for the untouched glass, rescuing it from the dumps. "How bad do you think it will be?" he wonders softly, hand twisting the glass rather than wringing in worry. "I guess it's still pretty bad already, isn't it? But that's always how it goes. Without the villain, there's nothing for the heroes to do." His eyes travel from glass to Asi, lingering on the flush of her features. From there his gaze dips again back to the glass where he murmurs into the rim of it as he brings up the drink, "I do miss being brave." What liquid courage is contained in the glass is quickly poured down his throat in but a few large gulps.

"So what do you think?" The question pivots attention down to the flight of cocktails that went nearly unfinished, but were polished off by mutual efforts. Shaw leans foward, resting chin on knuckles, owlish eyes blinking. "Is it too much? Some people say so. Do you want a waffle?" The little nod from the man is heavily encouraging of the indulgent. Asi might not get an actual choice of the matter, given that Shaw signals the bartender with a gestured hand sign. A short, whispered conversation passes and Asi can see the order progress from the bar to a server and on into the kitchen. “It's good for hangovers,” he says with a warm smile.

Asi lets out a hm of amusement when Shaw advises they can't sleep on this, her nose twisting. Her expression relaxed when he asks his question, and she pulls one of the glasses back to mirror his movements; fingertips light on the drinking edges of it and slowly rotating it around. "It's bad," she confirms. "Larger than any of us know or any of us should have to deal with. But if we're not brave these next few weeks, Shaw…"

"No one else is coming to save us," she murmurs. "So either we do something, or we die, and the true person we are dies, too."

He asks what she thinks, and it takes her a moment. Didn't she just answer that? Then she looks down at the glasses and bobs her head along with a silent 'Oh.' She manages a small smile. "It kept me interested, and that takes effort these days," she promises. "Passing marks, all around." The praise is met with an attempted meeting of eyes to show sincerity, but Shaw has already ordered her a follow-up. She can't help but let out a small laugh to show she's been disarmed.

"Can't have a hangover, now, can we," she supposes with as much grace as she can. And she's good at that when she wants to be– years of etiquette training belonging to someone her yet not her showing its head.

A glimmer of pride flickers behind Shaw's eyes for the approval of the menu special. Validation from affirmation. It was worth the ask. But Asi's prior murmured words draw a slow, deeper nod from Shaw, showing of shared internalized fears. He starts to reach for the opened moonshine bottle again, but his hand comes to rest at the neck of the bottle and stays there. His eyes dip to the sticker logo where the three letters, WNK, cause his expression to churn. "When you live with a passionate wielder of fire? No, strong hangovers are bad news. Nightmares are worse with a hangover. No hangovers is best," Shaw replies, his light chuckle feeling a touch forced.

"I have another question," Shaw says a beat after, turning to look back at the woman. "Do you think we could… should…" He hesitates from worry bubbling up. His question ends whispered. "Do you think we'll survive?" For all the talk of bravery and a prayer spoken, the man doesn't maintain his nerve as well appearances suggest. Fingers rub along the neck of the bottle, and he looks away, ears coloring in a suddenly bother. “Passing marks,” he utters softly.

For what little she knows of Isa and the demons that she lives with, Shaw's comments bring Asi's look to tinge with sympathy. She looks away, down at her glass, thumbing the edge of it. Assuming they all survive this … she can't help but wonder what nightmares will curse them all going forward. She knows, already, that they've come to plague her in ways they never have before, given the nightmare… doesn't really end with waking. Her thumb comes off the lip of the glass with such force it sings, momentarily.

Shaw's question leaves her to set it aside to turn to him properly, though, her posture straightening. She looks him over, and when he breaks gaze with her, one hand lifts to place on his shoulder like to steady him. "We're going to do our best to, aren't we?" Asi asks rhetorically. There's a sense she's choosing her words carefully, given the public setting. "I'm not going to give up on us. And I don't just mean the ones of us who were taken, I mean us." She squeezes his shoulder firmly. "I want to survive, and if we don't fight for it, we won't."

"That's all I know," she summarizes, and lets her hand fall from his shoulder. "That, and that no hangovers are best." For his sake if not her own, she cracks a small smile. "Will you help me with the fight that needs to happen here at home? It's going to be just as important as storming the castle to find those who were taken."

"Of course," Shaw replies readily to that call to arms. Even though his voice is soft, it is unwavering in support. "Even if we don't win… we have to show up for the battle. We have to survive. The story is not fully written." The man gives small nods of mini-hype as if to drum up that cry of war within. "The story is not fully written," he repeats even softer, turning back to the half empty bottle of moonshine. The flight of drinks has been cleared, but he stares at the empty space with the look of a man recalling past memories, his being a million yards more than a thousand.

It seems almost like that's where the conversation is going to die on the vine in that moment. The next, a server from the side arrives with a dual-stacked buttermilk waffles covered by fresh fried chicken and non-alcohol soaked fruits that make it look like a gourmet breakfast than the usual hangover cure. The smell snaps Shaw out of his reverie, all daymares swept away at the sight of the dish. "'Ere ya go luvs, enjoy," remarks the server with a smile to them both and a nod to her boss as she sets a couple of napkin-covered sets of diningware down beside them on the bar.

Shaw scoots the plate closer to Asi, encouraging silently for her to partake. "We have to hope," he says solemnly after a beat. "We wait. The path will show. And then, we take our shot." Dead serious determination seeps in as he concludes, "Trust in the Force."

There's something reassuring about Shaw's soft calm, even if Asi knows it's seconds away from the anxiety of the moments before. They can each take their turns building each other up and rescuing the other from their darker moments; trading off who holds the light and carries them the next step forward, helping the other along as they go. In this moment, she does her part by turning out the second stack of silverware toward Shaw.

"I don't know about trusting the Force," she asides with something approaching casual wryness. "But I do think I'll trust in these waffles."

And him. And the others.

She trusts in the power of hope shared between them, now that even the smallest flame there has been lit.

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