avi_icon.gif emily_icon.gif huruma_icon.gif joe_icon.gif

Scene Title Temperance
Synopsis It's someone else's problem.
Date August 20, 2019

The Bastion

August 20, 2019

Standing where she is, of her own free will, with the intention of seeing who she means to see… Some might call that progress.

Emily Epstein would tell those people, soundly, to fuck off.

She lingers on the sidewalk on the other side of the street from the Bastion, looking up at it, looking it over. The late summer weather feels cool in comparison to the wild heat the city endured over the last two months, driving her to wear a three-quarters sleeve cardigan, a deep forest green laid over a dark grey v-neck with a black line running up and down the collar. She’s dressed like the coloration might somehow help her blend into the city background, or make herself a smaller target.

And yet she steps out onto the street anyway, exhaling slowly before tilting her head in the direction of the Bastion’s public-facing doorway. She gives Joe a small smile, a lie that she’s just fine, and pulls the doorway handle open, nodding for him to head in first. “Ready?” Emily asks.

Joe didn't do anything silly at least, like dress in the black or khaki BDU's he has. Surplus from the midwest on one of the runs with Keira's group. Nope, instead he turns up in a pair of boot cut blue jeans, work boots, and a black pullover hoodie that says "Eric Doyle Memorial Library" on the front in plain white block letters. Though if one looks there are little white lines going from the letters upwards thinning until they vanish. (Puppet strings) The letters don't look to be a patch or a vinyl print on. The hoodie itself is colored that way. (Thank you Brynn.)

"Heya Ems." He offers as he steps up next to her, tilting his head up as he looks across the street. "Yeah. Sure. Not at all but lets do it." He flashes her a quick smile, not one of his usual big grins, but something smaller, and… a little bit shaky. He's worried. She can probably see it in his eyes. He's already certain it's going to be another rejection. Another no. He's already convinced himself of it. But head in he does, stepping inside through the open door first.

“No, look. It’s not that easy. I want to make sure there’s nothing left. I mean I’m talking a fucking crater the size of Tasmania, white hot, glass around the edges.” Avi Epstein’s voice has an edge to it, he isn’t so much bassy as he is loud. There’s a sharpness to his voice, an authoritative bark that makes him sound like he knows exactly what he’s talking about, especially when he doesn’t. His voice practically echoes through the concrete-floored and brick-walled lobby of the Bastion, where a stencil of a wolf’s head over a badge-like field greets visitors proudly declaring WOLFHOUND in block text around the base of the badge.

It would all feel so official and serious were it not for Avi.

“I just think, you know, if you’re going to fucking double park and then leave a giant fucking dent in the side of a paramilitary vehicle, you should expect that you, your next of kin, and everyone in a fifteen fucking mile radius is going to be reduced to fucking ashes!” Putting Avi’s office on the ground floor level of the tower just off of the lobby would have been a better choice if he ever shut his door when he was on the phone. “No, I don’t have my policy number! I’m in the Safe Zone right now, do you know what a fucking third world country looks like? Because I don’t get my fucking mail delivered— ”

Hello?” Avi shouts, frustratedly. Right about the same time a dark silhouette rounds the corner from the central stairwell. It doesn’t take an empath to know that Avi’s nerves are frayed right now, but Huruma Dunsimi is one anyway.

She's been listening- - and watching in her own way- - for a while now. At first it was amusing, then a touch more serious. Huruma also knows when he's redirecting, and it is often.

"QM-11003482." Rattled off from her lean against the wall, Huruma toes the line between teasing and helpful, a small smile on her lips. Something like incorrigible, at least for the moment where she tells Avi the insurance policy code for one of the Hounds' rides. It will pass, she knows better. But first she's going to yank his chain anyway.

"I couldn't help overhearing." Huruma shifts, hip cocked and arms crossed; the bright pattern of her blouse seems to only magnify the attempt at levity, and the black wrap on her head, pinned with amber, says something of where she's been today. All very Madagascar chic.

"Also, we've visitors coming in the door."

Is there ever a time he's not yelling? Emily struggles to come up with examples. She lets out a tired sigh at hearing it, but it at least means he's here after all instead of… well, wherever one might go to avoid this. Her eyes settle on the painted emblem, slowly moving in the direction of the noise. Huruma's voice draws her attention faster, brow lifting.

"Hey, ilihlosi," Emily says, her voice carrying despite its softness. She lifts a hand in greeting before it falls back by her side, loosely tensing and uncurling in a way that helps keep her nerve even. She even manages to force a small smile of hello.

Her gaze slides past Huruma to the door, a flit of anxiety crossing her features before she looks back. "This is Joe," she supplies helpfully, gesturing with a polite open palm to her friend.

“I’m nervous. Can’t lie. I am. I just… I mean I’m pretty sure they’re just going to look at me as the kid they know and tell me nope. And… I couldn’t exactly blame them for that either. I mean both of them risked their lives to help us kids. And I couldn’t blame them for not wanting to be part of me putting my life in danger. It just… yeah.” Joe isn’t good at being vulnerable, and he already did that with Emily. Chinks in his armor don’t open up on a regular basis.

In Joe’s experience Avi is either yelling or complaining. Usually both involve a great deal of swearing and threatening of people’s body parts and well being. So hearing Avi’s voice raised, talking about blasting people into atoms doesn’t… worry him. If anything it draws out one of his patented big goofy grins at hearing one of his old protector’s voice. He’s walking alongside Emily, his eyes wide as he stares around at the ground floor of the Bastion, though he stops dead when he sees Huruma.

And then a very very unparamilitary sort of thing happens. About as unparamilitary as you could possibly get. “AUNT STORK!!!” Is shouted as Joe goes careening across the floor in her direction, boots squeaking on the floor as he first starts running. Because Joe has no sense of danger and besides. Aunt Stork wouldn’t hurt him. He is however going to give her a running tackle of a hug. It’s a Huruma seeking missile. Made out of Jojo.

“Oh you fucking show off they hung up,” is the last thing Avi says to Huruma before Joe comes barreling down the hallway.

Huruma knows exactly who is coming into the Bastion; though not being a mind-reader, she can still sense the rising, bubbling sensation of pure excitement. Her chin lifts at Emily's greeting, after giving Avi her typical coy look.

It's then Huruma registers the incoming teenager. The nickname the Lighthouse kids use is affectionate, yet one that Huruma has usually chosen to put up with rather than try and change. they've been calling her that long enough that she has mixed feelings.

"Joseph." Huruma mutters, the bubble of her ability bouncing off of his elation and flicking him gently with some calm. Hopefully it at least buffers his impact, as that's what it becomes. An impact. Not nearly enough to actually tackle her, enough to have her finding better footing in a moment of surprise. Whoa.

"You are lucky that I like you." Rather than admonish him, Huruma simply rests one hand on his flyaway hair and returns the gesture with the other. Emily earns a more deadpan look over Joe's head.

Stepping out of his office like a troll out from under a bridge, Avi Epstein is — wearing sunglasses indoors. His floral print hawaiian shirt is unbuttoned at the top, his shorts khaki, his sandals mercifully worn without socks. “Okay, the fuck is going on here?” He asks of everyone else rather than acknowledging his own attire.

“Okay, if this is about getting a tour, I’ll direct you to the offices of my secretary Francois Allegre upstairs.” Avi says with a shooing motion of his hands, stepping around Huruma and Joe and angling a crooked look to Emily. “You can keep him,” he says as an aside to her, “but only if you promise to clean up after him and take him for walks.”

Somewhere in the cognitive dissonance of seeing her father in a tourist costume a realization dawns on Emily. This… this feels odd for him.

She's not the only one in camouflage today?

It's small. Maybe unconscious.

Emily looks past him to Huruma and the thing hidden in that glance she gives her, unsmiling in return to the taller woman's deadpan. Noted, Huruma. She won't tell if you don't.

"Joe," she asides evenly, "What was that about not wanting to be treated like a kid?" The reminder is gentle, but pointed. She lingers away from the collision, stationed in such a way she could lie to herself she's not a part of the conversation, or that it would be easy to slip away. She knows neither of those things are true, though. In silent protest against that fact, her hand comes to hang off the side of her neck, a glance given in Avi's direction while she waits for Joe to disengage.

She clears her throat. "Anyway, I'm— pretty sure this is unnecessary because you all know each other," but she doesn't know what else to do aside from this, gesturing now to her friend with the hand she'd been rubbing at her neck with, "But this is Joe Winters. Joe, this is…" A knot of pure will forms in her gut, keeping her from faltering. "Avi Epstein."

"My dad." Emily manages to add, though she doesn't exactly know how. Momentum, probably.

She looks up into the aviators, glad she's not close enough all she can see is her own reflection. "Joe's looking for some guidance about his future," sounds innocuous enough until it's followed by, "I recommended he talk to you." Emily holds his gaze only for a moment before she looks to Joe.

"But Ems. This is Aunt Stork. And I haven't gotten to see her yet since I've been back in the city. Reunion time. Reunions supercede other behavioral requirements. It's da rules. Look em up." He winks at her as he steps back from Huruma, his grin wide and happy. He stops short and blinks slowly, looking up at Hooms with a confused expression on his features. "Do… do you age?" It's a legitimate question in an age of people with superpowers. "Because you look… exactly the same as I remember you." He huhs softly, tilting his head first one way and then the other. His mouth opens to say something when he spots Avi.

"Mister Epstein!" And then he's getting a hug too. No missile there since he doesn't have the windup room, but Avi is definitely getting a hug. "You got your eye back? Primal! How did you get your eye back? Did it get healed? Cybernetic replacement?" He pulls back a little in confusion when Avi doesn't seem to recognize him. "Well, that is fair. You haven't seen me in a long time. Though Aunt Huruma recognized me immediately." Joe gives Avi a mock insulted look.

But then… then Emily drops that little bomb. Big bomb. At least big for Joe. His eyes go wide as saucers, and he turns to look at Emily, then at Avi, then at Emily then at Avi. This repeats about six times before Joe's eyes narrow at Emily. "We're gonna have a talk about this." He promises her in a stern tone, because she kept that from him. For quite a long time. And that is not okay.

Then Joe turns on Avi, eyes narrowed. His arms crossing over his chest slowly. "I actually came to see if it might not be possible to join Wolfhound. Especially now that you guys have a station here in the Safe Zone. But now I want to know what the heck you did to your daughter to turn her into such an angry closed off person. You know me and the other Lighthouse Kids had to pretty much force our way into her life to get her to stop being such an angry recluse? She was pissed off. All the time. What did you do Mister Epstein?" Because… well that's Joe. One moment he wants to try and join up, the next well… Emily is his friend. And his loyalty to his friends is FIERCE.

“Because your daughter is a pretty primal person. And it must have taken something pretty bad to put her where she was when we first met her.” Of course that was really just Joe. Busting his way into her life and bringing the LHK’s along with him. But that doesn’t need to be part of this conversation. “Also…. Are you going on vacation?” Joe asks in confusion as if he’s only just now noticed that Avi is dressed for a Hawaiian beach and not for you know… Bastion.

Joe's first question for her is answered with a silent, somewhat slow blink. Ponderous. She could literally give him any number and he'd believe it. Instead, she just smiles faintly in gratitude for the compliment, as she sees it. Good enough.

The rest- - hugs or not, chatter or not, chaos all the way- - Huruma absorbs as if she were seeing it from outside of herself. God, it's a lot of words and ups and downs- -

Huruma's hand comes up from behind Joe's head to try and smother his mouth and drag him back against her. Don't.

A calming mist floats from her as she does this, mostly to keep Avi from (outright) homicide.

Emily's eyes glaze over in a moment of horror before her gaze sharpens. Joe, she screams at him with a stare. That was supposed to be encouragement to doubly have your shit together, not to… to…

She physically can't bring herself to look Avi's way, just remains silent, still, and grateful for Huruma's intervention.

“One,” Avi extends his pinkie finger, he's counting, “we stopped hiring out of kindergarten after Nathalie showed up.” That's for Joe. “Two,” now it's the ring finger, and he's looking to Emily, “I am going on vacation, Scott and I are taking the Tlanuwa down to Virginia to pick up some hardware from an old friend and I intend on enjoying the fucking beach.” Avi swivels a look over to Huruma. “Three,” thumb, because he isn't about to make Huruma think he's flipping her off, “have you seen a pink bottle of sunscreen anywhere?”

Somehow the blasé passing over of the latter part of Joe's outburst is just as unsettling as any other reaction Avi might have given. Emily looks the part of a wildly uncomfortable young woman, rock and hard place crushing her while standing only feet away. Okay then, she internally musters herself.

Still, she can't help but level a rueful look at Joe. Maybe accusations weren't the best elevator pitch.

Emily looks Avi's direction finally anyway, asking, "Are you joking?"

"Kindergarten? You watched me charge, disarm and hold at gunpoint an armed soldier at the age of 10." Joe's features pinch into a scowl his arms crossing over his chest in indignation. Joe doesn't mention that he had Paul's help doing that of course, but he doesn't feel his point requires it. "Heck I probably have more training and experience than half of the people do when you hire them on." Because Joe's mouth cannot be silenced. "Don't worry Aunt Stork. You can let me go. I'm not gonna punch him unless he says something really stupid."

Joe pats Huruma's restraining hands reassuringly. He's not going to savage Avi unless he deserves it Aunt Stork, it's okay. "I may have slightly over reacted. But I've been friends with your daughter for a year, and I'm pretty sure your name was mentioned in the first two weeks when I was telling the story of the battle on the road. Mostly Hailey's moose rescue. So she kept it from me. However that doesn't lessen my demand to know what the heck went on when she was little for her to end up such an angry person.”

There’s a moment’s pause from Joe before he continues, his voice a little less convicted than before. “Though the fact that she's here and even in your presence after all the anger she expressed towards her father when I first met her is a dang miracle and oh a lot of stuff makes sense now. Ooooooooo. Now I see why Devon got in so much trouble." Joe's cheeks puff out a little bit, caught mid rant by his own brain catching up with him all in a rush. "You definitely should have forwarned me about this Ems. Like… keeping it a secret for a year aside…" Joe has probably just torched any chance however remote he might have had of getting to work with Wolfhound now.

The wiggling around being smothered is a temptation to actually smother him. But, Huruma quietly reminds herself that she does in fact, like Joe.

"It's not you I'm worried about." It is an aside before he keeps going, a faint scoff on her breath as she sets that hand down onto his shoulder. She waits until there's a moment between his words to look back to Avi with a lidded expression. Thumb, good choice, sir.

"I put it in your bag." Huruma angles a step to the side, turning Joe towards her, hand still latched onto his shoulder, brows arching down at him and teeth clenched just-so. "If you want to be in this line of work, Joseph, you must learn how to read a room." It is imperative.

"I would advise you to work on your discretion, though I am well aware of the type of man you are." The kind that talks, and talks, and seeks. Sometimes it can be a good thing. Other times… not so much. Case in point.

“I watched you charge into a hail of bullets with a moose and not follow basic fucking instructions and — kid — I'm not even one percent convinced you wouldn't ride the moose into battle if given the chance t’do it again.” As Avi makes his impression of Joe clear, he angles a look over to Huruma and spares her a both surprised and appreciative look.

You,” Avi says to Huruma, “are a gem, never change.” But then we angling to Emily and clapping a hand on her shoulder. There isn't so much a judging expression or even a frustrated one as there is a look of uncertainty and scrutiny. The hand comes away and Avi clears the distance over to Joe.

“Can you use a computer?” Avi asks Joe, abruptly, with no real context. “Like email and shit.”

Emily's posture softens somewhat, a visible crack in her stiff tension as a deeply-felt relief washes over her. This, she thinks to herself, was more what she'd been hoping for. Not leaping into a hail of bullets, but rather, starting small. Maybe.

Her gaze flits to Joe, brow lifting expectantly. Encouragingly. This sounds like a second chance.

Joe turns his head to look up and over his shoulder towards Huruma. "I can read a room Aunt Stork." His smirk is a bit pointed and his eyes flicker back and forth between Hooms and Avi, his smirk growing wider. "I just tend to plow right past it unless it's danger time. Growing up like I did didn't leave much time for observing social norms. Better to cut through the BS most of the time." Joe lifts one shoulder in a half shrug before he turns to regard Avi his head nodding up and down a couple of times.

"Well first, you adults were out matched and undergunned. I was helping. Also I was ten. Second, Mister Moose would have made a perfectly respectable battle mount and you know it. Third," A smirk rises back to Joe's lips, turning into one of his big heartfelt grins. "I was born after dinosaurs walked the earth, so yes I know how to use a computer." Joe's brow lifts upwards in Avi's direction. "You know I remember you being more… endearingly grumpy when I was younger. Like a cute grumpy grandpa. With a gun. And an eyepatch." Joe really can't help himself.

“Oh, you all should come to the open house we’re having. We got a place of our own. We’ve invited everyone to come by. Everyone who ever helped us. Everyone responsible for the whole lot of us still being alive. Which includes both of you.” Joe looks between Avi and Hooms. “And Ems of course because she’s stuck with us now.”

"You know how much I love picking up after you." Huruma looks amused at both Avi's response and Joe's soon after, giving the latter a skeptical sort of stare. Sure you can read it, Joe. You did your best. She seems about to add a thought when the younger man describes the Avi he remembers from approximately ten years old; Huruma's mouth flattens and the press of her lips indicates restraint, brows up. Cute grumpy grandpa. Joe.

"I am beginning to question my past motivations on being a responsible party." is what the tall woman decides upon, expression neutralizing. Although her voice is not quite so serious.

“I’m still cute,” Avi says flatly, waving one hand dismissively in the air. “So here’s the deal, we’ve gotta pull some things together and it won’t be any time soon, but we basically need an errand runner since Scott’s kid is doing intel work for us more than picking up the mail these days. It’s not glamorous, it’s not a combat gig, and you sure as shit won’t be riding along on one. But I’ve gotta know you aren’t going to go Moose Riding, okay?”

Avi looks over to Emily, pointedly, then back to Joe. “But this is a PMC, son. The second we open up that position, you’re gonna act like you’re in the army when you’re around here. No bullshitting me, no bullshitting Francois, no bullshitting the other Hounds. You get to earn the right to talk shit to us, like Huruma here did.”

Did she, though? Or did she just assume the right? Avi likes to think the former.

“You do this for a while without blowing shit up or being a fuckup,” Avi says with a wave of one hand in the air again, as if motioning to a past history of ups being fucked, “and we’ll see how it goes. Expectation management, Nat was our youngest recruit and a wartime one and we still kept her off the field for more than a year. But maybe, just fucking maybe, if you pay attention and behave… I dunno, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it? I’ve still gotta clear this by Daddy Francois.”

Avi did not earn the right to call Francois that. There is no amount of effort on Earth to earn that right. But Francois isn’t in the room. Right now.

“That’s my final offer,” Avi concedes.

Cute is where Emily draws the line. Infantilizing her father isn't a step she's willing to entertain. Bristling, she looks away from the conversation, not even having a seat she can sink down into. She crosses her arms across her chest to brace herself for any other awkward turns in the conversation, not turning back Avi's way when he levels her the look he does.

(She still sees it, though. Sees him trying. Thanks, Dad.)

For all the manners he does or doesn't display, he's straight-shooting in making his offer. Clear in a way that's more than appreciated— and plainly details a path to the future. Warranted or not, she feels the need to lift her voice with an addendum.

"They've got government contracts, contracts with the city, and a lot of eyes on them. Being able to present professionally is going to be key." Emily glances back a bit pointedly at Avi at that. She doesn't think he handles himself professionally, but maybe he 'earned' that right, as the saying was going. "They're small, so there's not a sea of faces to hide in. No matter how small a task, it's representative."

Meeting Joe's gaze in a glance, she shakes her head slightly. "To be clear, I think you can do it," she points out, in case the warning indicated otherwise. "It'd be a great opportunity for you."

One she harbors a little surprise about, but the lid is kept tightly shut on that.

Joe looks between everyone standing there a few times. Hooms Emily Avi, Hooms Emily Avi, HoomsEmilyAvi. "What? I can do this." He remarks almost defensibly. "I can." Joe looks over to Avi and lets out a soft snort. "Moose are gigantic and scary. I mean, for most people I guess. But I have no desire to ride a moose. I like my clothes without antler holes in them. And yes I know you didn't mean literally. I know you meant figuratively. And also probably literally. Buuuut mostly figuratively. Yes I can be relied upon to do as I'm asked." Usually. Unless you're SESA. Actually really it's just unless you're agent Rhys Bluthner. Joe's head wobbles up and down a couple of times.

"I… you know I don't think I know who Francois is. Cool. A new person. I like new people." Joe sucks in a deep breath though and lets it out before he finally dips his head. "I get it though. Brian taught me well enough to know when it's business time and when it's not." Which means Joe almost never thinks it's business time. Not even in the middle of a street brawl outside of the arcade.

"Explosives aren't really my thing so we're good there. Still not sure if the concussive force from some big ordnance would pulp my insides through my skin. Not keen on finding out. Final offer? That's a pretty good offer. Didn't even bargain much. Shut up Joe. Take the offer. I'll take the offer Mister Avi. You won't regret it. Promise." Yes. Yes he will. He absolutely will. Avi what have you done? He walks over and stands next to Emily, leaning in to bump his elbow against hers. "First of all. Thanks. This is awesome. Second of all? You're still in loads of trouble." His head wobbles up and down rapidly before he flashes a wide smile at Avi and Hooms. "It'll be cool. You'll see."

Huruma remains a silent party as Avi fusses and finally extends Joe an offer he can't refuse. It's a thankless sort of job in the first place, but it is still something. Though she can absolutely vouch for Joe's skills, the rest needs work. Especially some of Brian's lingering bad habits.

Earned the right to talk shit? Brows knit, perplexed for part of this. Avi has a distinctly different impression of how things got here than she does, it seems. It's a little amusing, and that much touches in a smirk on her lips.

"Francois was with the Ferry, I am sure when you meet him you will recognize him." Huruma's stance seems to relax some now that Joe is (mostly) finished bouncing his way around trying to get a job, arms crossing loosely and a spared look for Avi. "I think that he would appreciate the assistance. Lovely idea. Perhaps he can teach some temperance."

Avi says as he sweeps a hand down over his face, about to offer some sort of warning or pithy remark, but remembers that he’s about to be out of town for a couple of weeks. Which means this isn’t technically his problem at the moment. Which means—

“Francois is gonna love you.”

He’s someone else’s problem.

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