The Best You Give


asi5_icon.gif kay2_icon.gif

Scene Title The Best You Give
Synopsis Not every hit can be a home run.
Date July 19, 2020

Yamagato Park

Like much of the architecture in Yamagato Park, this second-story café achieves a balance between the manmade and natural, inviting sunlight and greenery indoors. Asi sits at a table by the window, her back to the wall and her eyes on the city street below. Each table in the quiet establishment has an arrangement of flowers, a small, thin tree actually growing in a stone plot near the entryway.

Her hands are cupped around a tall, ceramic mug, steaming drink untouched while she waits. If anything, it seems to serve as a focus point— an item she quietly, relentlessly taps two fingers against with a muted tink of skin more than short nail hitting the ceramic. Her eyes trace the activity on the street in repetitive circuits, more tension gathered in her shoulders than she's noticed.

She looks as though she hasn't slept. Perhaps the tea would begin to help remedy that look, but judging how intent her attention is elsewhere, how keenly she looks to be listening for something, maybe she doesn't remember she has it at all.

The text she'd sent Kay had been vague, for all that it was direct. She wanted to meet. She had something she needed to tell her. She'd set it within the bounds of Yamagato's borders.

But it was Sunday, at least. A day Kay hopefully wouldn't be spending working.


The vagueness of it left Kay wondering exactly how she should be dressed for this meeting. In the end, she had opted for comfort. Home wasn’t so far away if it turns out she needed something different. If this is business… Well, it would likely have come with more warning, given the day of the week.

Not that Kay ever truly feels like she’s not working.

A lightweight sweater of royal purple hangs fashionably off one shoulder. Slouchy, with overlong sleeves, the hem of it nearly long enough to reach her knees. Blue denim skinny jeans disappear into chocolate brown knee-high leather boots. Her crossbody bag matches. It may not be large enough to carry an entire bottle of sake in, but it’s more than large enough for a derringer, or whatever her small arm of choice is at any given time.

She’s a friend, but given what Kay knows — given the fact that all of Yamagato Park is on high fucking alert right now — this may not just be a social call. She does her the courtesy of making sure she’s easy to spot in her approach and does nothing to mute the sound of her boots’ solid block heels.

Asi.” Kay comes to a stop as she nears the table, unlooping her purse and hanging it off the back of the empty chair, but not moving to take that seat herself. She stands ready to offer either her hand or a hug, whichever the other woman prefers.

It takes the calling of her name to draw Asi back to the present, taking in a sudden breath as she begins to right her already upright posture by the very few degrees possible. Her feet shift on the floor, hands still around the cup. The fact that Kay doesn't sit seems to throw her off.

She's dressed in black like one might for mourning. A sheer blouse with sleeves rolled to the elbows is worn closed over a sleeveless plum shirt made even darker by the layer over it, the pants she wears blacker even than that. Her ankle-covering boots match the mood, tightly laced.

"Kay. Thanks… thanks for coming."

She's even more shit-tier at smalltalk than usual, but she's making the attempt.

The fact dawns on her, brings her to furrow her brow and look away briefly to the barista stand. "If— you'd like something, please." Asi dips her head in an earnest nod, glancing up at Kay for only a moment. "It's the least I can do. I don't…" Her gaze breaks off again, this time roaming for the window. "I don't have good news to bring with me today."

“Nn.” Kay gives a short nod of her head to indicate her understanding, mentally withdrawing from that unreciprocated offer of physicality in her greeting. This is not a social call, then. She thought at worst Asi might be reaching out for a sympathetic ear. But apparently not so. “I’ll be right back, then.”

She could get a fancy latte like usual, but that would take time. Instead, she opts for plain ol’ coffee with a splash of real cream to lighten it up a little. She’s back to Asi’s table in no time at all. The coffee’s set down before she sits down herself. “何を悩まれていますか?”1

She’s been practicing.

(If only it did anything for her accent.)

Under regular circumstances, Asi might smile. But instead, she slips one hand off her mug so she at least looks a little less tense, letting it settle. "何かあったよ,2" she relates with a slow exhale after. In that space, she finds the nerve to look Kay in the eye. There's little light to be found in them, none of the energy she'd developed earlier in the summer. Whatever it is, it's taken a clear toll on her.

"This is something I don't intend on sharing with others. But… you placed your faith in me, Kay. So you need to know this." Pressing her mouth into a thin line, Asi braces herself mentally for the words. "I won't be able to support you in the same way anymore. If you need to cut me and drop me, that's fine. I would understand fully. But…" Her voice quiets in an attempt to ensure privacy, and maybe control the quality of it. "I've lost my ability."

"I am losing sleep trying to figure out how, by whose hand, and how to fix this, but I don't know how long it will take to find those answers. And in the meantime, should you run into a situation where you need to call on me—"

Asi's words end in a tss of a note, and she gives a very small shake of her head. "You deserve to know I'm not myself anymore. That you'll be getting a changed, slower set of skills the next time I step up to the plate. Because I can't just…" She sighs shortly, looking away and back. "I can't split my will and execute multiple strings of thought simultaneously anymore. I'm…"

Just a regular hacker, now.

Kay does smile — even though Asi doesn’t — but it’s a sympathetic sort of expression. Not to be confused with a piteous one. “そんなこと知ってる,”3 she responds smoothly. “喜見子は言いました。それが心配していたことですか?”4

The blonde shakes her head and leans forward to lay a hand over the one Asi still has wrapped around her mug. “Do you think I only associate with you for your ability? Do you think that’s the only worth you have? To me? To yourself?” Kay squeezes gently. “Asi… No. You are plenty talented even without that.” The very mom-like look she fixes the hacker with conveys that she will not be accepting any arguments on this front. “What would you tell me if I said I wasn’t of any use to anyone because I can’t, I don’t know, levitate?

Asi continues to stiffly hold onto her tea, eyebrows curving upward in a slanted gesture of disbelief and— something else. Something that might properly show itself should she not pour her energy into her grasp on the mug. "No, but you vouched for me, owing— to the way I was. You…"

Won't hear any of this, clearly. She shakes her head to herself and looks off out the window a moment to regain her composure, or at least make a best effort. Her hand parts from her tea finally to curl around Kay's hand in return, firming with a desperate, grateful squeeze.

"I didn't say I'm not useful," she balks when she looks back, voice light with an attempt at a tease that falls flat. There's nothing behind it— her eyes are just as hollow as they were before. "Just that part of me, part of who I am was… stolen. That changes things."

Doesn't it?

Asi lets out a small tsk of a sigh, muttering with a wipe of her other hand at her eye. "Look at me, all choked up for no reason, then. I didn't know she would say anything, but perhaps I should have." She continues to hold onto Kay's hand tightly, the small gesture a liferaft she clings to. Her brow knits in that odd way again as she looks back to Kay, something incredulous in them now— a silent question, maybe rhetorical, maybe not.

Does she really mean that? That she still believes in Asi's worth even without her ability? In a life where her use has so often been defined by the use of it, she struggles to see why people wouldn't lose interest in her knowing she can't commune with tech any longer.

“I know it changes who you are.” That part Kay won’t diminish. She can’t fathom what that must feel like, but reckons it must be akin to losing a limb, or having to somehow function without a vital organ. “It doesn’t change who you are to me, though. It doesn’t change the fact that you can run circles around me, technopathy or no. I vouched for you because you’re capable as fuck.” As it often does, her cajun accent thickens up the more impassioned she gets.

Yes, the way you can put your skills to use has changed. But I chose you for this because you’re adaptive. I like that about you personally. I don’t want any hacker to have my back. I want you.” The grip of Kay’s hand loosens to something more companionable and less fierce in its reassurance, but doesn’t demand any easing in return. “I’m not going to lie to you and say it doesn’t change things, but change doesn’t mean ruin and it doesn’t mean renders useless. It doesn’t change that I want you on my team and that I see your worth and your value. I’d be a real hypocritical piece of garbage if I said you weren’t qualified just because of your damn genetics.”

Kay snorts with derision that’s directed mostly toward herself. “I’m not running SCOUT.”

Asi lets out a faint breath, somewhere between hysterical and incredulous. Thumbing her eye dry, she evens her voice enough to point out delicately, "I'm unused to people not applying a double standard." She takes in a breath that lifts her shoulders, brows popping. "So thank you."

Maybe this is more a social call after all, or at least, more of one than Asi would have believed at first.

Another small strained laugh bubbles from her involuntarily as she reflects, "If I were still with the Mugai-Ryu, if you were Genki, he'd— I'm pretty sure he would congratulate me for my loss, and then never talk to me again. So I just…" She shakes her head, bringing her voice back down to something more mild. "It makes you a better person than you realize. One I'm grateful to know."

Looking back to Kay, Asi gives her hand another gentle squeeze before taking hers back. That's enough of that, after all. Outward, public displays of emotion don't become her, in her mind.

"I'll do my best," she promises.

“That is the first and last time anyone is going to even come close to describing me as genki,” Kay teases with a small grin. She knows to whom Asi is referring. “I bet that asshole wears the biggest fucking smile. God, if I ever meet that moron, I’m gonna punch it straight off his face.”

The friends Kaydence Lee has can be counted on one hand. It leaves her with a lot of energy to fight on their behalf. And she has a lot of pent up frustration to vent on anyone who’s caught her ire.

But she turns away to have the goodness of the things she’s asserted pointed out. Now it’s her turn to stare out the window, uncomfortable. “Lord, don’t say that. I’ve got a reputation to uphold.” But when Kay glances back to Asi, she’s wearing the faintest of smirks. This can be their little secret.

Her hand withdraws and she busies herself with a drink of her coffee, which is now cool enough to drink safely. “This is something I tell my daughter a lot right now, because she’s going through all that… teenage bullshit, and it’s rough.” She waves a hand quickly as if to dismiss the notion that Asi is acting remotely teenaged. Not the point. “The best you give doesn’t always have to be your all-time best. This isn’t a game where you’re constantly striving to set a new high score. Sometimes your best is that you pitched a no hitter. Other times it’s that you only gave up two runs. Maybe your arm was sore that day. You did the best you could.”

‘Ella plays softball, and this is where Kay’s gone with her analogy now. Sorry, Asi.

“Right now? You’ve got one hell of a muscle strain. Nobody’s expecting you to throw strikes a hundred percent of the time. Certainly not your coach.” For that, Kay presses her gesturing hand to her own chest. “So… I’m just sayin’.” The blonde looks down at the clouds in her coffee, suddenly feeling a little awkward. “I feel like this got away from me like a wild pitch,” she jokes.

Asi turns away when Kay professes she'd punch Genki, trying to hide the small tug of a smile she abruptly wears with a small shake of her head and a look out the window. Her appreciation goes silent, but strong. She knows it's just Kay's emotions talking, most likely, but at least they're strong enough she says them at all.

The analogy to baseball takes a moment to sink in, but when it does, she sees the parallels just as the other woman lays them out. So she's quick to assert, "I follow. And I appreciate it."

She's not smiling now, but Asi tucks her chin in a faint nod before she takes a sip of her own drink. It's cool enough she could do more than that, but she paces herself as though the conversation is liable to end at the bottom of her cup. "I think if we're going to follow through with the metaphors, I need bench time. At least for a while. Until…" One hand comes up to rub against the side of her nose, pads of her index and middle fingers digging into the corner of one of her tired eyes. "Until I'm throwing again without aggravating the strain."

"If that makes any sense at all," Asi balks while tipping her hand out, feeling just foolish now.

Perfect sense,” Kay assures, relieved that her analogy has resonated as intended. While Asi believes she’s speaking from emotions that wouldn’t be present otherwise, Kay absolutely believes she’d think just fine with her fists if she met anyone from Asi’s former team. It burns her that they could have had someone so brilliant among them and not appreciated it. Not appreciated Asi.

She empathizes with that situation. She wishes someone would have punched people on her behalf. Be the bitch you want to see in the world, then.

Kay lifts her gaze from her coffee, making sure she either catches Asi’s or at least leaves her own there to be caught. “You can take as much time as you need to. I mean that. Even if I have to fill in from the minor leagues,” let’s just keep going with baseball here, “your position is safe. I’ll be ready to put you back on the roster when you’re ready to come back to me.”

She grins, “But don’t feel like you have to be fighting fit to keep reaching out, okay?”

Asi still looks— because she still is— in disbelief that Kay really is taking this as well as she is. Her shoulders begin to sag as she looks off again, focus spent on keeping herself together. Her eyes close hard for a moment before she nods, knowing she's doing a poor job of masking how difficult this is for her, but taking solace in the fact at least she's not crying.

"I'll try to remember that," she assures, but it doesn't ring like a promise. When she looks back to Kay, she's nonetheless wearing a small smile that doesn't quite reach the hollow of her dark eyes. "It wouldn't do to suddenly give up on social calls. On nights out drinking…"

Her brow suddenly knits, and she lifts her eyes to Kay's with greater focus than before. "You know the same goes for you, right?" That she doesn't need to want to talk shop to reach out.

“I’m afraid I’m not good for much else,” Kay says quietly. Although she smiles, her eyes mirror Asi’s own in that there’s no trace of it to be found. “I’m not a terribly social creature.” Which the other woman well knows. She had to be practically dragged out of her apartment to celebrate her own birthday.

“It… kind’a comes with the territory.” They say it’s lonely at the top, and while Kay’s not reached the pinnacle — isn’t sure she’d ever want to — friends are as thin as the air at the summit. It’s hard to trust and feel safe. Asi is a rare exception to Kay’s lone wolf lifestyle, and even then, she’s usually responding to Asi’s calls, rather than making them when it comes to purely being social.

One hand lifts from her coffee cup to wave at the air like she’s dispersing a haze that hangs around them. “This isn’t about me,” Kaydence insists, even though she knows she should make things a little more about her to take some of that burden off of Asi. The thing is that Kay doesn’t believe she’s near important enough for that. “How else can I support you? What do you need from me?” And before she can refute or object, Kay adds firmly, “I want to help you.”

Asi knows better than to argue, but she also knows better than to treat this with platitudes. "Kay, I don't know. Every day is a new experience. I… am stuck between stages of grief. Acceptance never sticks. And I never want it to."

"I just want my life to go back to how it was. Things were good." The smile she wears now is an involuntary flash of one, pained as she looks down to her drink. "Finally things were good…"

With a slow shake of her head, she looks back up, comes back to the moment. "I don't know what would help yet," she repeats softly, her voice hollow. "But as soon as I do, I'll let you know. いい?"

“It’s okay not to know,” Kay affirms with a gentle smile. “I can’t imagine what you’re going through, but… I’m here.” It’s possibly the very least she can do, but it’s not the most she’ll do. She’ll keep working to build more support. This is just a foundation, she tells herself.

“I’m working to figure out how we can… make this better, somehow.” She isn’t sure if there’s any way to fix what happened to Asi, to Kimiko and the others, but maybe if they can understand it and find who’s responsible, they can move forward from there. Some kind of catharsis or healing can take place.

When Asi returns to her, Kay’s smile strengthens, brightens. “そう. I’ll be here. Whenever you’re ready.”

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